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Toledo Catholic outscores Athens 56-52 for D3 state title

COLUMBUS (AP) — The worst day of Joe Burrow’s life was a great one for all the Fighting Irish of Toledo Central Catholic.

Marcus Winters scored on an 8-yard run through traffic with 15 seconds left — the 12th lead-change of the game — to give Central Catholic a 56-52 victory over The Plains Athens for the Division III state title on Thursday night.

Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football Joe Burrow passed for a record-tying six touchdowns, completing 26 of 45 passes for 446 yards for Athens (14-1).

“This is easily the worst feeling in the world,” Burrow said. “This is the worst day of my life. There’s not much more to say.”

Michael Warren Jr. ran for 194 yards and two scores, Tre’Von Wade had 158 and one and Winters 134 yards and three scores as the Fighting Irish (13-2), who won their third state title, rushed for 501 yards.

The finals returned to Ohio Stadium for the first time since 1989 before a crowd of 10,713.

“There hasn’t been a state title game here in 25 years and I guess us and Athens made up for it,” Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey said.

The teams alternated scoring all 10 touchdowns in the second half — each a lead change. There were numerous records set in the back-and-forth game.

“It was just like a great, old-fashioned heavyweight fight,” Athens coach Ryan Adams said. “It was whoever was left standing at the end.”

Athens scored on all five possessions after halftime, taking a 52-49 lead on Trae Williams’ 2-yard run with 2:52 left.

But the Fighting Irish refused to fade away.

They made good on two fourth-down plays — one of 8 yards at their own 29, another on fourth-and-5 at their own 47.

Winters, who completed 8 of 17 passes for 153 yards and two scores with an interception, hit on a 36-yarder to Darion Greer on one of the fourth-down conversions.

Then the game came down to a fourth-and-1 at the Athens 8 with 20 seconds left. Winters took the snap and, following a phalanx of blockers, sped through a closing hole at left end and into the end zone.

Athens tried to lateral a Burrow completion on the final play, but Williams was pushed out of bounds.

Burrow threw touchdown passes of 54 and 40 yards to Ryan Luerhman and two 8-yarders to his twin brother, Adam Luehrman. He also hit Heath Wiseman on a 10-yard score and Zacciah Saltzman on a 29-yarder.

Winters burst 79 yards around the right side for a score early. He also scored on runs of 12 and 8 yards, while Warren — only a sophomore — had TD runs of 1 and 18 yards and also went 67 yards with a screen pass from Winters, who had two TD passes.

The teams combined for 1,217 yards — tying the record for any title game in the state finals’ 43 years.

Athens set a state scoring record for a season with 861 points, surpassing Clarksville Clinton-Massie’s two-year-old mark of 822.

Burrow was announced as the 28th winner of the Ohio Associated Press’ Mr. Football award on Wednesday night. He has verbally committed to play at Ohio State next season, so this was his first official game in Ohio Stadium.

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP