By BRIAN LESTER
LIMA — Losing never feels good, but it stings a little more when it happens in the postseason.
For the Ada Bulldogs, their dream of chasing a state championship was derailed Friday night at Lima Stadium in a 40-35 loss to St. Henry in a Division VI, Region 24 semifinal showdown.
Tears were in the eyes of senior Jacob Ansley as he walked off the field with his teammates. And while it hurt to absorb the pain of the setback, he was proud of the way the Bulldogs continued to battle until the scoreboard hit zero.
“It’s real tough,” Ansley said. “My teammates are like my family and we played so hard tonight. We gave a heck of a comeback and just came up a little short.”
Lightning lit up the sky with 4:21 to go in the third quarter and rain soon followed as the game was delayed for a little over an hour.
The Bulldogs were in a 33-21 hole at the time but never quit fighting, scoring twice down the stretch to make things interesting.
Brandon Szippl caught a 56-yard TD pass and Micah Roberson hauled in a 41-yard scoring strike as he eluded several defenders before stumbling into the end zone, trimming the Redskins’ lead to 40-35 with 4:27 to go.
The second TD brought the Ada fans to their feet and set the stage for a tense finish. The Redskins eased the tension by eating up the rest of the clock with a couple of big first downs to seal the deal.
“Our kids fought hard,” Ada head coach Mike Fell said. “Give St. Henry all of the credit. They made the big plays when they needed them.”
Had Ada (10-2) been able to take care of the football, the outcome could have been different. But senior quarterback Mason Acheson was picked off five times, including three times by Alex Post, wiping out opportunities to grab the momentum.
“We put them in some good positions with the turnovers and they took advantage of it,” Fell said. “It was to overcome them.”
Ada finished with 430 yards. The Redskins tallied 376 yards. Acheson was 23-of-38 for 407 yards and Ansley caught seven passes for 91 yards.
Kyle Stahl was 13-of-24 for 194 yards and four TDs to pace the Redskins (9-3), who were 8-of-16 on third-down conversions. Stahl also rushed for 97 yards and two TDs. Matt Osterholt caught five passes for 85 yards.
The Bulldogs, who opened the postseason with a 50-15 win over Waynesfield-Goshen, struggled early as Acheson found himself under pressure often and was picked off twice by Post in the first half.
But Acheson redeemed himself both times, hitting Matt Wilcox on a 69-yard pass. Wilcox caught the ball near the 50-yard line, juked two defenders and raced down the left sideline for the TD to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:36 to go in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 14-14 on an 18-yard scoring strike to Ansley, who caught the ball at the 1-yard line and spun around to fall into the end zone.
The Redskins scored off the first interception by Acheson, needing only two plays to punch it into the end zone. Stahl ran 12 yards for a 7-0 St. Henry lead and Stahl’s 39-yard TD pass to Osterholt pushed the St. Henry lead to 14-7 with 7:23 to go in the half.
That TD pass was the first of two that came on a third-down play. The second time came on a third-and-8 in which Stahl scrambled and threw a 39-yard TD pass to Jeff Paul. The Redskins stepped up defensively as the Bulldogs were unable to come up with a TD in the final 49 seconds of the half.
“We knew they were a good football team, but you try to prepare as best as you can for your opponent,” Fell said. “We had a good week of practice, but their quarterback was very good. He made big plays all night.”
The Redskins entered this game riding the high of a 45-21 victory over Fort Loramie and they didn’t need much time to keep momentum on their side in the second half of this game.
Ada forced St. Henry to go three-and-out on its first drive but Acheson was picked off by Jordan Bender on his first pass attempt and the Redskins made the Bulldogs pay as Osterholt caught a 6-yard TD pass. The two-point conversion pass failed but St. Henry had a 26-14 advantage.
Acheson didn’t have any luck on the next drive either as he was picked off again, this time by Jordan Osterholt. Four plays later, the Redskins had pushed their lead to 33-14.
Stahl fueled the drive, running 26 yards on the first play and hitting Bender on a 9-yard scoring strike on the final play. Stahl was hit as he threw the ball but Bender was able to get his hands on it in the end zone.
The Bulldogs seemed down and out until Acheson pumped life into his team with a remarkable play on third-and-16. He was chased out of the pocket and was running toward the right sideline before letting the ball go for a 39-yard pass to Wilcox, who stayed inbounds on the catch to make it 33-21 with just over four minutes to go in the third.
It didn’t take long for the Redskins to stomp on that momentum. They used up the remaining time in the quarter and opened the fourth with a 1-yard TD run by Stahl to push their lead to 40-21 and all but end any hope the Bulldogs had to rally for a victory.
Although Ada was hoping to go deeper into the playoffs, the Bulldogs can take comfort in knowing they had another successful season.
“We had a great year and we can go out knowing we played as hard as possible,” Ansley said as he walked toward a crowd of cheering Ada fans. “I’ve had a lot of fun with my teammates and I’m going to miss playing football here.”
St. Henry 7 13 13 7 — 40
Ada 7 7 7 14 — 35
SH — Stahl 12 run (Post kick)
ADA — Wilcox 69 pass from Acheson (Waller kick)
SH — Osterholt 39 pass from Stahl (Post kick)
ADA — Ansley 18 pass from Acheson (Waller kick)
SH — Paul 39 pass from Stahl (kick failed)
SH — Osterholt 6 pass from Stahl (pass failed)
SH — Bender 4 pass from Stahl (Post kick)
ADA — Wilcox 39 pass from Acheson (Waller kick)
SH — Stahl 1 run (Post kick)
ADA — Szippl 56 pass from Acheson (Waller kick)
ADA — Roberson 41 pass from Acheson (Waller kick)
By BRIAN LESTER