LOUDONVILLE — The Mid-Buckeye Conference championship and an undefeated season came down to the wire for the Fredericktown football team Friday.
The Freddies scored with just 23 seconds left in the game to pull out an exciting 31-28 victory over host Loudonville. The win wrapped up the outright conference championship for the Freddies and gave them their first undefeated season since 1989.
“This was a great high school football game,” said Fredericktown head coach Luke Beal. “Both teams played with tremendous heart. The kids showed a tremendous amount of heart scoring there at the end. Our kids stepped up and made the plays at the end.”
The Redbirds (6-4 overall, 5-2 MBC) nearly threw a dagger through the hearts of the Freddies and their fans when they scored with just 56 seconds left in the game. A 22-yard pass from Jake Krupp to Jordan Lance put Loudonville up 28-24, putting them in position to grab a share of the league title.
But, the Freddies (10-0, 7-0) weren’t in the mood for sharing.
Tony Lybarger returned the kickoff to Loudonville’s 40-yard line. Two pass completions and a Loudonville penalty set the Freddies up at the 8-yard line. Thomas Hinkle then hit C.J. Ruhl in the back left corner of the end zone to send the Freddie fans into a state of hysteria.
Hinkle then intercepted a Loudonville pass to ice the game and put the trophy squarely in Fredericktown’s hands.
“There were still ticks on the clock, so we weren’t settled until we got that last turnover,” Beal said. “This is a great win for us. The kids were not satisfied with a share of the MBC. Their goal was to win it outright.”
“We came back and made a couple of good plays to go ahead. But with a team like that, they’re the type of team that can come back on you. They have a quick strike offense and we gave them a short field,” said Loudonville coach Don Wilson.
A defensive slugfest for most of the first half gave fans absolutely no indication of the fireworks that were to come.
Both teams were able to move the ball in the first half, but interceptions cost both teams opportunities before Loudonville finally cashed in. Krupp connected with Doug Schalmo on a 24-yard scoring strike with three minutes left in the first half.
Fredericktown answered in quick fashion, scoring on a 49-yard pass play from Hinkle to Lybarger. The teams headed into the locker room knotted at 7.
The Freddies took a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter when Hinkle ran it in from 5 yards out. But, that’s when Lance took over for the Redbirds.
Lance took the kickoff and raced 95 yards for the tying score. After stopping Fredericktown on its next possession, Lance took the punt and went 69 yards for another TD.
“Obviously, Jordan had a great night. He had two interceptions to go with his two returns. He was definitely a difference maker tonight,” said Wilson.
“The two returns were frustrating for us. We were starting to get some momentum, but a big kickoff return and a punt return were a tremendous boost for Loudonville,” said Beal. “It was real disheartening, but I’m real proud of the way our kids bounced back.”
A big play of their own helped the Freddies get right back into things. Hinkle hit Ruhl on a screen pass to the left side which Ruhl raced 53 yards for the tying score.
Both teams’ defenses tightened up for about 10 minutes before the final fireworks blasted off. Fredericktown’s Branden Smith hit a 22-yard field goal to put Fredericktown up 24-21 with just three minutes to go. But, the Freddies weren’t able to breathe again until Hinkle’s interception with 18 seconds remaining.
Hinkle hit on 14-of-24 passes on the night for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Ruhl caught six of those passes for 87 yards, while Lybarger hauled in four passes for 90 yards. Hinkle also rushed for a team-leading 73 yards for Fredericktown.
Krupp connected on 7-of-10 passes for 143 yards for the Redbirds. Lance caught three passes for 59 yards, while Schalmo caught two for 57. Brent Allerding led the Redbirds with 65 yards rushing.
With the victory, the Freddies secured a spot in the Division V state playoffs. They will host a first-round game Friday.