Findlay, Ohio – For the first time since they won the Division 6 State Championship 11 years ago 28-26 vs Marion Local, Columbus Grove Bulldogs are heading back to the state semifinals.
Domination was the word of the night as the Bulldogs utilized a balanced offensive attack led by Reid Stechschulte and Joey Warnecke alongside a fantastic defensive game to down Arlington 19-7 at Donnell Stadium Saturday night in the Division 7 Region 24 Championship.
Arlington won the toss and chose to take the football to begin the game, that decision would prove unsuccessful for the Red Devils however as they were forced to punt after picking up only eight yards. On the ensuing punt, the Bulldogs David Bogart utilized a 50 yard punt return to set up his teams offensive attack at the Arlington 30 yard line.
Five running plays and one passing play were all the Bulldogs would need before Sophomore QB Reid Stechschulte sprinted out of the shotgun and into the endzone from 1 yard out to cap off a 7 play 30 yard drive over the course of 2:52 and give Grove a 7-0 lead with 7:05 remaining in the opening stanza.
After a pair of punts from each team, Rece Roney gave Columbus Grove a 9-0 lead with his safety of Arlington signal caller Dominique Fuller at the 2:57 mark of the first quarter that would hold up into the halftime break.
With their band in Florida it would be up to the Bulldogs to provide a show for their fans, and they wasted no time as Roney again proved to be a thorn in the Arlington side with his fumble recovery of an Austin Rettig miscue that landed on the Findlay turf before the Sophomore got a hold of it.
Eli Schroeder would put an end to the next Arlington possession with his 4th interception of the season at the Red Devils 36 yard line. 1st Team NWC Kicker Joey Warnecke finished off a 12 play drive on the ensuing offensive possession for Grove as he booted a 37 yard field goal right down the middle to put the Bulldogs on top 12-0 with 2:46 left in the 3rd stanza.
Logan Diller would add an interception for the Bulldogs and Andrew Nichols picked up a second Rettig fumble in the second half before Grove would see their opportunity to make it 15-0 come to a halt when Warnecke’s attempt for three points was blocked.
Tanner From’s pilfer of a Ridge Babb pass would lead to Grove’s last score of the game as the Bulldogs utilized just 4 plays and 33 yards when Warnecke rushed for his 18th touchdown of the season from 8 yards out to make it 19-0 Bulldogs with 2:52 remaining in the contest.
The only miscue on the night for the Bulldogs defense would come with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter as Austin Rettig who rushed for 121 yards on the night and went over the 2,000 yard barrier for the season rumbled in from 7 yards out to provide the games final margin of 19-7. Grove would get the football back following two unsuccessful Arlington onsides kick attempts and see Stechschulte take a knee to secure Grove’s date in the State Semis.
Arlington finishes the season at 11-2 while Grove improves to 9-4 and a date next Saturday night with the 3 time defending State Champion and winners of 36 consecutive games in the Marion Local Flyers who defeated Sidney Lehman Catholic 49-7 tonight. Grove vs Marion Local can be heard live on www.zsportslive.com with myself and Steve Wiener and will take place at a location to be disclosed on Sunday afternoon by the OHSAA.
Individual Box Score:
Rushing: Grove – Warnecke 28/101, Stechschulte 17/54
Arlington – Rettig 24/121, Babb 5/15, Fuller 3/-7
Passing: Grove – Stechschulte 4/13 for 30 yards
Arlington – Babb 2/7 for 50 yards and 2 interceptions, Fuller 3/5 for 12 yards and 1 interception
Receiving: Grove – Fortman 3/37, Bogart 1/3
Arlington – John Solt 2/44, Aaron Starr 2/19, Logan Speyer 1/-1
Interceptions: Grove – From 1/22, Diller 1/20, Eli Schroeder 1/8
Arlington – N/A
Fumbles: Grove – N/A
Arlington – Babb 2, Rettig 1, Glick 1
Time of Game: 2 hours 16 minutes