Bulldogs fall to Tigers in state semifinals, 42-14

ORRVILLE — The greatest season in the history of East Knox Bulldogs football came to an end Friday with a 42-14 loss to Springfield Tigers in the OHSAA Division IV state semifinal game at Orrville High School.

The loss is the only blemish on an incredible 13-1 season that took the Bulldogs to their very first final four.

  • Joshua Morrison/News East Knox Bulldogs defender Shane Knepp breaks up a pass during the first quarter of the state semifinal on Friday at Orrville. Knepp would suffer an ankle injury late in the game. The Tigers won, 42-14.
  • Joshua Morrison/News East Knox wide receiver Cade Leech makes a spectacular catch over two Tiger defenders during the first quarter of the state semifinal on Friday at Orrville. The Tigers won, 42-14.
  • Geoff Cowles/News East Knox football coach Cody Reese, right, consoles Caleb Gallwitz after the Bulldogs fell to New Middletown Springfield, 42-14, in the Division VI state semifinals Friday in Orrville.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Tiger defenders Clayton Nezbith and Chris Thompson spy on Bulldogs running back Caleb Gallwitz.

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“We overcame a lot of adversity from week one until now,” East Knox coach Cody Reese said. “Our guys never stopped fighting, never gave up and never quit fighting together. I’m proud of our senior group of 10. They achieved their goals going into this season, and then they went beyond that.”

For a while, it looked like East Knox had the key to get around a powerful, physical and quick Springfield defensive front line. The Bulldogs came out throwing with quarterback Kadden Lester going 9-for-12, passing for 60 yards, in the opening quarter. Lester stayed with the short pass, possession game, keeping the ball out of the Tigers’ hands.

Running back Caleb Gallwitz (13 carries, 51 yards) only had 18 yards on seven carries in the opening half, but defensively, he came up with a fumble midway through the second quarter. The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize when Lester tossed an interception, giving the Tigers’ the ball at their own 48. Tigers’ quarterback Beau Brungard took the ball 52 years on first down to put his team on top, 7-0.

The Bulldogs got another break when Braden Kannady tipped a Brungard pass and teammate Shane Knepp came down with it to give the Bulldogs the ball at their 48.

Lester, still relying on the short pass, hit Weston Melick on a 16-yarder to set up a one-yard scoring run, again, by Melick, to make it a 7-7 tie. Lester would finish the game going 21-for-39 for 191 yards.

“(Springfield) is a really well coached team with great athletes,” Lester said. “They adjusted great to whatever we were throwing at them.”

The bell finally tolled on the Bulldogs season when the Tigers’ got the ball back, driving it 56 yards for a one-yard touchdown by running back David Duvall.
The second half showed why Brungard is so hard to contain and why the Tigers’ front line is one of the best around. Brungard ran for touchdowns of 75 and 15 yards. Then, he tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Garrett Walker. Brungard was 5-for-8 passing for 59 yards. He also rushed the ball 17 times for 232 yards.

“We knew Springfield was big upfront,” East Knox’s Gage Steinmetz said. “Every team in the final four is going to be a good team. You couldn’t ask for a better team or better teammates than I have.”

Down 35-7, Lester started making longer tosses, finding Weston Melick on a 42-yard touchdown pass near the end of the third quarter.

The Tigers, who rolled up 425 total yards on the game, got one more TD from Austin Tindell.

“Going 13-1 and then losing a state semifinal to a really well coached team is not a thing to be ashamed of,” Reese said. “The resilience of this team — I’m very proud of that.”

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Geoff Cowles: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @



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