CELINA — The situation was familiar. One chance, needing a score and coming up just short.
The Wapakoneta Redskins now have two losses on the season, both coming in dramatic and entertaining fashion.
The Redskins traveled to Celina Friday night, but the Bulldogs went home the victor, 24-21.
Celina’s offense is known for their home run passes and their big play capability, but Wapakoneta was able to keep them in check for most of the game. Varsity coach Doug Frye said their philosophy was to not let anything behind them, and were able to limit senior quarterback Braden Bilger to a season low 277 yards on the day, but it was enough.
Wapakoneta was leading by 4 points about midway through the fourth quarter when Celina started a drive on its own 21 yard line.
A systematic drive with passes of four, nine, 20, 12, 18, six and a eight yards was enough to score the game wining touchdown. The 14-play, 79-yard drive which was capped by a jailbreak screen from Bilger to junior wide receiver Braeken Bader for the touchdown.
“We had good blocking, good blocking on the safety coming up, all I had to do was run to the end zone,” Bader said. “I just saw the goal line ahead of me.”
Frye said the game was hard-fought and he was proud of his team for never giving up.
“I give all the credit in the world to coach Rolfes and the Celina Bulldogs. I thought those kids really played well. But I was really proud of our kids’ effort tonight. Our kids played with a lot of heart tonight, and this is just a good Western Buckeye League game,” Frye said. “Our kids never quit, these are a bunch of workers and not quitters. Celina was a better football team than us tonight.”
Wapakoneta was given a chance to respond with about five minutes left in the game on a drive starting on their own 30-yard line. Facing a third-and-17, Senior quarterback dropped back, avoided pressure from the Celina defensive line, and found a streaking Alex Greve for 24 yards and a first down. The senior playmaker, pulled in the diving catch to give the Redskins a chance.
After a first down run from junior running back Zach Schmerge, the Redskins had a first down at Celina’s 42 with about three minutes left in the game.
An incomplete pass, a short run from senior running back Jenson Merricle and a run for no gain from Gibson left Wapak with a fourth-and-five with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Frye took his first time out.
From the shotgun, Gibson looked right toward sophomore Kodi Morgan, but the pass fell short and Celina had the ball with about 1:40 left on the clock.
Three running plays and two time outs later, Celina was set to punt with 50 seconds left, trying to preserve a three-point lead.
With 41 seconds, Wapak started with the ball on their own 25. A short pass to Greve kicked off the final drive, he was able to get out of bounds.
Frye was about to pull out all his tricks.
A pass to senior wide receiver Johnny Crawford on the right side was completed, and Crawford pitched to Greve for the first down.
Out of bounds.
Then Frye took a play out the playbook he ran against Elida.
Gibson threw right to Crawford, who threw the ball deep to Greve on the 39 yard line.
First down, 20 seconds.
A false start penalty left the Redskins with 44 yards to the end zone.
Gibson dropped back looking deep for a receiver, but pressure from the Celina defense dropped him for a sack.
Without much time left, the Redskins failed to get to the line for a final play and time expired.
Celina coach Jared Rolfes was happy with his team’s performance after the game.
“We didn’t play relly good offensively, we only scored 24 points,” Rolfes said. “But I thought they played very good defensively. They were better than I thought they were.”
Rolfes was impressed with his defense and its ability to hold the Redskins to 21 points.
“To hold them to 21 points, I think they are one of the better teams offensively in the league, I thought that was pretty good,” Rolfes said.
Coming down to the wire, Rolfes said he was confident once he has a lead late.
“If they are down and there is no more time, they cannot win,” Rolfes said. “It’s not a knock on them, it’s just their style of offense.”
Wapakoneta plays Defiance at home next week, and Celina travels to St. Marys for a rivalry game.