Hornets can’t overcome early deficit in loss to Cadets

Published 2:31 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022


For The Ironton Tribune

LANCASTER —This time, for the final time, Chase Hall made his greatest impact on this Division VI Region 23 semifinal in the pass-catching category.

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Unfortunately for the Coal Grove Hornets, they fell behind by too much early —and their comeback bid to top-seeded Fort Frye fell short late.

Three explosive first-quarter Cadet plays put the fifth-seeded Hornets behind the proverbial eight-ball, including two touchdowns — as Coal Grove’s campaign came to a 27-14 end at frigid Fulton Field in Lancaster on Saturday night.

The Hornets (8-5) had an uphill climb against the heavily-favored Cadets (12-1), and Fort Frye — following a pair of quick-strike scores after three-and-out Coal Grove possessions —put the Hornets in a fast 14-0 hole.

With only four minutes and eight seconds gone by, Braxton Brown had returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown —followed by Clayton Miller’s 59-yard scoring scamper on a quarterback keeper.

The Hornets did drive seven plays on their next series, and crossed midfield for the first time on a 4th-down-and-3 call, but they turned the ball over on downs at the Fort Frye 48-yard-line.

On the next snap, Austin Powell sprinted 51 yards to just shy of the goal line — and Owen Brown bulldozed in on the next play, making it 20-0 at the 3:19 mark of the opening quarter.

From there, though, the Hornets doubled up the Cadets 14-7 —and had their chances for even more.

Coal Grove head coach Jay Lucas said the Cadets’ team speed stunned his power-based unit at the outset.

Fort Frye’s lone loss this season was a 41-38 shootout against West Virginia powerhouse Linsly.

“We had to adjust to their speed and their aggressiveness. That’s a really good team, one of the best Division VI teams in the state for sure. It took us about a quarter, like we couldn’t get in a groove early on. By the time we did, we were down three scores trying to fight back. Against a good team like that, it’s hard to do,” said Lucas. “Have to give Fort Frye credit. They executed well, played well, they have some really nice players and are well-coached.”

Lucas was also proud of his Hornets for not giving up, and even making a game of it as late as the final minute.

But the Hornets’ final first-half possession —with Coal Grove trailing 27-7 — ended at the one-yard line, as they lost two first-half fumbles followed by three second-half interceptions.

Coal Grove also had two touchdowns negated via penalty, including one with around four minutes remaining —a 53-yard pass from Whyatt Mannon to Kaden Murphy wiped out on a holding call.

That would have made it 27-20, but instead the desperation drive ultimately ended with Zaiden Huck —the Cadets’ placekicker who made three extra points — intercepting Mannon near the goal line.

“Our kids battled like crazy the entire game. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They didn’t back down and nobody can ever say that they did,” said Lucas. “We had two touchdowns called back, then we had the one short right before the half, and they get us with three big plays early on, so it’s all part of the game.”

Hall, on Saturday, was named the Southeast District Division VI Offensive Player of the Year — as he rushed for almost 3,000 yards on the season.

He set the Coal Grove single-season rushing record, and amassed 118 yards on 20 carries in his final game on Saturday night.

But Hall had two TDs receiving to get the Hornets to within 13 points twice — a 10-yarder with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter for a 20-7 deficit, followed by a 54-yard catch-and-run down the sideline with 9:54 left to make it 27-14.

John Turner twice kicked the extra point, as the Hornets had made a living all season with Hall cashing in on two-point conversion tries.

Those scoring drives both spanned seven plays and two-and-a-half minutes apiece —as the first went for 65 yards and the second 77.

On the second touchdown, Mannon found Hall near the boundary at the Fort Frye 45 —as Hall made a move, broke a tackle or two, and sprinted to paydirt.

Mannon completed half (13) of his 26 pass attempts for the usual run-oriented Hornets, which threw much more on Saturday night after falling behind 20-0.

Hall had four receptions for 95 yards, while Gavin Gipson garnered six catches for 56 yards —and the freshman Murphy touched the ball 11 (eight rushes, three receptions) times, plus making an interception of Miller in the second quarter.

Fort Frye, following both teams trading three-and-outs early in the second stanza, went up 27-7 with 7:12 to play —following a five-play and 40-yard drive that took two minutes and three seconds off the clock.

A Miller swing pass to Owen Brown for 14 yards made it 27-7 with Huck’s third and final extra point.

The Hornets then withstood their two lost fumbles on a pair of three-play possessions, and got the ball back with a minute and 19 seconds left before halftime —trying to make it a two-score deficit at that point.

Hall had a 55-yard dash to the Fort Frye red zone, but after seven plays, the series stalled out at the 1-yard-line with 18 seconds showing.

The Cadets actually turned the ball over on downs themselves, three times in a span of seven-and-a-half minutes in fact, but the Hornets couldn’t take advantage —as Mannon was intercepted for the first time, and the Hornets punted for the fourth and final time.

But after Coal Grove scored to make it 27-14, it recovered an onside kick —which actually spun its way beyond the first level of the Cadets’ hands team.

Still, the Hornets didn’t take advantage — as Bryndan Riddle picked off Mannon at the Cadets’ three, which bailed Fort Frye out after back-to-back pass interference penalties pushed the ball from the Coal Grove 45 to the Fort Frye 25.

Uncharacteristically, the Cadets committed seven penalties for 85 yards —five of which were whistled for 15 yards apiece.

Miller (11 carries, 88 yards), Powell (eight carries, 72 yards) and Owen Brown (13 carries, 64 yards) bagged for all but two of the Cadets’ carries (34) —and all but four of their 228 rushing yards.

Coal Grove actually passed for 155, and rushed for 140 on 39 attempts.

It marked the final game for seven Hornet seniors, including three which saw regular snaps —and one of which was the standout Hall.

“Chase is just a special player that loves the game. I’m prejudice, but I think he is one of the best players in the state of Ohio for sure. But more than that, he is a great kid,” said Lucas. “We’re going to miss him.”

But, Lucas reminded fans that football is indeed a team game.

“We have a special group of kids that work really hard. They are close and they love each other,” he said. “I was so proud of the fact that we didn’t fall apart. We came together, made the game close, and we just came up a little short.”

Coal Grove 7 0 0 7 = 14

Fort Frye  20 7 0 0 = 27

First Quarter

FF — Braxton Brown 74 punt return (Zaiden Huck kick) 9:48

FF — Clayton Miller 59 run (Zaiden Hick kick) 7:51

FF — Owen Brown 1 run (kick failed) 3:19

FF — Chase Hall 10 pass from Whyatt Mannon (John Turner kick) 0:49

Second Quarter

FF — Owen Brown 14 pass from Clayton Miller (Zaiden Huck kick) 7:12

Fourth Quarter

CG — Chase Hall 54 pass from Whyatt Mannon (John Turner kick) 9:54



First downs 14 13

Rushes-yards 39-140 34-228

Passing yards 155 71

Total yards 295 299

Cmp-Att-Int 13-26-3 7-9-1

Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0

Penalties-yards 4-44 7-85

Punts-average 4-35.5 3-33.0


Individual Leaders

RUSHING–Coal Grove: Chase Hall 20-118, Kaden Murphy 8-22, Whyatt Mannon 7-5, Steven Simpson 2-1, team 2-minus 6; Fort Frye: Clayton Miller 11-88 TD, Austin Powell 8-72, Owen Brown 13-64 TD, Ethan Duskey 2-4.

PASSING–Coal Grove: Whyatt Mannon 13-26-3 155 2-TD; Fort Frye: Clayton Miller 7-9-1 71 TD.

RECEIVING–Coal Grove: Gavin Gipson 6-56, Chase Hall 4-95 2-TD, Kaden Murphy 3-4; Braxton Brown 4-33, Owen Brown 2-26 TD, Ethan Duskey 1-12.