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Hornets’ big play defense holds off Shenadoah, 7-6

Coal Grove Hornets’ defensive lineman Josh Waulk (left) strips the ball from Shenandoah running back Nick Miller (22) to stop a Zeps’ drive during Friday’s Division VI Region 23 quarterfinal playoff game. The Hornets won 7-6. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

COAL GROVE — The Coal Grove defense came up with a big defensive play.
Then another, and another, and another and…
The Coal Grove Hornets kept making big defensive plays as they held off the Shenandoah Zeps 7-6 in the Division VI Region 23 playoff quarterfinals on Friday.
“Our kids never game up. The defense came up huge time after time after time after time,” said Hornets’ head coach Evan Ferguson.
“I can’t ask anything else of our defense after what they just did tonight in that game. The kids stepped up huge at the end. Our defense just played great.”
Coal Grove recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass while taking advantage of nine costly Zeps penalties for 75 yards.
Nate Harmon came up with a diving interception with 7:52 left in the second quarter at the Shenandoah 28 that set up the Hornets’ score.
The two fumbles were heads-up plays as Harmon grabbed what was supposed to be a lateral on a hook-and-pitch while Josh Waulk took the ball away from Zeps’ running back Nick Miller at the Hornets’ 45.
“Evan Holmes and Sammy (Angelo) had a big game. Josh Waulk had that big strip there at the end. Your big players make big plays for you at the right time. They kept making them and never quit,” said Ferguson.
“They had two drives in the red zone and we stopped them. That showed how far we come as a team. Early in the year we would have given that touchdown up. But we know now to hang tough in those situations.”
Coal Grove (10-1) will now play Chillicothe Southeastern next Friday at a site to be determined, probably Portsmouth or Jackson.
Shenandoah (8-3) racked up 361 yards of total offense with 267 coming on the ground. Quarterback Boone Jones ran 26 times for 150 yards and a touchdown while completing 12-of-23 passes for 94 yards with the interception.
Miller ran 22 times for 114 yards.
Coal Grove finished with 164 total yards including 145 on the ground. Kyle Sites had 72 yards on 15 carries.
Besides coming up with two turnovers, Harmon was 1-of-4 passing with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Angelo.
“Nate is a tremendous player. He’ll do anything you ask of him on the football field. He’s strong and he’s fast. I’m so lucky to have him in my first year. He made every play I asked him tonight and probably then some. I’m glad he’s going to be back next year,” said Ferguson.
The Zeps took the opening kickoff and drove to the Coal Grove 4-yard line. But with a first-and-goal, they had a holding penalty and a chop block infraction and found themselves back at the 30 and the Hornets held on downs.
The Hornets were forced to punt and Holmes had a 57-yard boot to the Zeps’ 21. But they drove the length of the field in nine plays with Jones scrambling for 38 yards and a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
The conversion pass failed and it was 6-0.
Coal Grove drove to the Zeps’ 29 but were stopped on downs. However, Harmon came up with his interception on the next play at the 28.
Five plays later the Hornets were facing a third-and-9 at the 19 when Harmon hit Angelo over the middle and he turned and ran into the end zone.
Holmes conversion kick made it 7-6 with 5:14 left in the half.
The Zeps marched to the Hornets’ 20 but a sack by Darin Bloomfield on fourth down stopped the drive.
Shenandoah had a drive to the Coal Grove 18 in the third quarter and tried a hook-and-pitch. But the lateral was grabbed by Harmon who ran the ball back to the 49.
Coal Grove drove to the 7-yard line but turned the ball over on downs.
The Hornets got the ball to the Zeps’ 39 only to fumble it away. However, four plays later Waulk pulled the ball away from Miller at the Hornets’ 45.
The Hornets were forced to punt and Kendal Sherman returned the punt 52 yards to the Hornets’ 38 with 4:25 to play.
A 19-yard run by Miller gave the Zeps a first-and-goal at the 6. Jones was tackled for a 3-yad loss and two motion penalties pushed the ball back to the 19.
After Jones scrambled for a yard, he threw a pass for Hunter Graham in the end zone that was ruled out-of-bounds. Jones was then forced to run on fourth down and only managed to get to the 10-yard line.
The Hornets took a knee twice to end the game.
“It was a great team win. We’ve needed this win here for 25 years,” said Ferguson, referring to the Hornets’ last playoff win. “It was back in ’92. I was born then. It makes it nice to win (in the playoffs) again.”
Shenandoah    0    6    0    0    =    6
Coal Grove    0    7    0    0    =    7
Second Quarter
Sh – Boone Jones 38 run (pass failed) 11:45
CG – Sam Angelo 19 pass from Nate Harmon (Evan Holmes kick) 5:14
——
Sh    CG
First downs    17    9
Rushes-yards    51-267    39-145
Passing yards    94    19
Total yards    361    164
Cmp-Att-Int    12-23-1    1-4-0
Fumbles-lost    2-2    4-2
Penalties-yards    9-75    3-20
Punts-average    1-7.0    3-38.3
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING —Shenandoah: Boone Jones 26-150 TD, Nick Miller 22-114, Kendal Sherman 3-3; Coal Grove: Kyle Sites 15-72, Nate Harmon 12-25, Joey Workman 4-20, Aaron Music 3-17, Evan Holmes 1-2.
PASSING — Shenandoah: Boone Jones 12-23-1 94; Coal Grove: Nate Harmon 1-4-0 19 TD.
RECEIVING — Shenandoah: Kendal Sherman 1-12, Ethan Wiley 1-14, Austin McPeek 2-30, Nick Miller 3-21, Hunter Graham 2-12, Chase Chicwak 1-6; Coal Grove: Sam Angelo 1-19 TD.