The kings are still on the throne.
They left little doubt of that.
Maty Mauk sliced his way through the Wapakoneta Redskins defense — both in the air and on the ground — to lead the Kenton Wildcats to a 52-32 win in a battle of Western Buckeye League unbeatens Friday night at Harmon Field.
The win gave Kenton (10-0, 9-0 WBL) its fourth-straight league championship and denied the Redskins’ (9-1, 8-1) bid for a 10-0 season.
“He was a man among boys tonight,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said of Mauk. “Take him out of the picture and we’ve got us a football game.”
The Missouri-bound quarterback threw for 286 yards and ran for 183 more to account for all 469 yards of Kenton offense.
He rushed for a touchdown and threw for three more as the Wildcats scored 30 unanswered points over the course of 12 minutes late into the second quarter through the third quarter.
The rally turned a close 16-12 game into a 46-12 Kenton lead.
“I thought in the third quarter they out-hearted us and out-physicalled us,” Frye said. “Like I told the kids this week, to win a championship you have to play every down full-go. And I thought they beat us in the third quarter. ...
“Really, at halftime, I felt pretty good. I liked where we were at. Obviously you’d rather be ahead. It was the first time we’d been behind all year and we really didn’t respond to it.”
Wapak bounced back in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of back-to-back recovered onside kicks, to score 20 points in a span of 2:22 to close the gap to 46-32 with 8:06 to play and awaken a lethargic Wapak crowd.
But Mauk engineered one last scoring drive, a 90-yarder, to run out almost five minutes of clock and set the final margin at 52-32.
The Redskins threw a defensive look Ottawa-Glandorf had used successfully in 2010 at Kenton, lining up with no down lineman and moving linebackers up and back prior to the snap.
Unfortunately for the Redskins it didn’t pay the same dividends it did for O-G when it knocked off the Wildcats last year.
“Over the years now we’ve seen a lot of that stuff,” Mike Mauk said. “So it was something we’d worked on and practiced on. Our young guys up front did a good job protecting our quarterback.”
Kenton took advantage of an early Wapak miscue to take the initial lead.
Forced to scramble on a third-and-long, Redskins quarterback Kyle Gibson fumbled at the Wapak 38 yard line and Kenton’s Alex Laney recovered.
Six plays later Mauk hit Justin Sawmiller on a screen on the left side for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Mauk ran it in for the two-point conversion and the Wildcats led 8-0 at the 7:44 mark.
Wapak responded with an impressive 12-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Senior Kevin Kraft scored from seven yards out on a trap play. But the two-point conversion failed and Wapak trailed 8-6 with 1:35 left in the first.
Mauk made big plays throughout the contest. One of the biggest was a 36-yard completion to Sawmiller on a third-and-28 from the Kenton 10 on the first series of the second quarter.
Four plays later, on a third-and-one, he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, bounced out and raced 33 yards for a touchdown. He then hit Matt Bahr for the two-point conversion and Kenton led 16-6 with 8:50 left in the half.
“We didn’t tackle well,” Frye said. “That was the biggest thing.”
On the ensuing drive, Wapak took advantage of a Kenton personal foul — one of four on the night for the Wildcats — to extend the drive.
The Redskins scored on perhaps the most interesting play of the night as the entire offense spread out, Gibson went into motion, and Connor Pickens took a direct snap and raced 10 yards for the touchdown.
Kenton coach Mike Mauk vehemently protested the play, walking out onto the field and down to the 15 yard line to get an explanation from the officials.
“Their quarterback was in motion,” Mike Mauk said. “Sometimes, when there are a lot of things going on, it’s hard to see everything. I just saw him running to the line of scrimmage and the ball was hiked. Those things happen.”
Wapak again failed to convert the two-point conversion and the Kenton lead was 16-12 with 4:07 left in the half.
Again Mauk drove the Wildcats, converting a pair of third downs along the way, before diving in from one yard out, then running in the two-point conversion, to put Kenton up 24-12 at the half.
That’s when the momentum really swung in Kenton’s favor.
Mauk found Brice Fackler in the right side of the end zone on the opening series of the third quarter, then hit Sawmiller on an almost identical play on the second series.
He found Fackler again for a 21-yarder with 29 seconds left in the third to cap the 30-point rally and put Kenton on top 46-12.
Wapak touched the ball three times in the third quarter, going three-and-out on the first two possessions.
“We knew our defense had to play well,” Mike Mauk said. “They’re very good. Take nothing away from them. ... They run the ball exceptionally hard. Their quarterback is a great athlete and they have great athletes on the perimeter.”
But the Redskins didn’t roll over.
They finally got their first first down of the second half on the final play of the third quarter on a 32-yard run by Pickens.
Gibson then hooked up with Jensen Merricle for a 32-yard completion to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Gibson. Gibson found Merricle for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 46-20 with 10:32 to play.
Wapak’s Zach Schmerge recovered an onside kick and seven plays later Alex Greve collected a five-yard touchdown pass from Gibson to make it 46-26 with 8:26 to play.
Brandon Miller recovered the second straight onside kick. Gibson connected with Kraft for a 30-yard completion to set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Pickens.
Suddenly Wapak was within two touchdowns, 46-32, with 8:06 remaining.
But Mauk led Kenton down the field and drove the proverbial nail in the Wapak coffin with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bahr with 3:36 left in the game.
Wapak finished fifth in computer points in Division II, region 8 — according to joeeitel.com — and will likely play a road game against the Franklin Wildcats in the opening round of the playoffs Friday.
“We got beat by a very good football team,” Frye said. “But honestly, I think we’re capable of a lot better.”
All results are pending any decision from the OHSAA regarding a Wapak player who sat out Friday night’s game. If Wapak has to forfeit any games it could eliminate the Redskins from the playoffs altogether.
“For the best of our team and the individual involved I decline further comment at this time,” Frye said in a text message Friday afternoon. “Once we receive word from the OHSAA I will have further comments.”
The loss was the first for Frye at Harmon Field since taking over the Wapak program last year.