BEVERLY — When Friday’s OHSAA Division VI regional quarterfinal between Centerburg and Fort Frye started, there was already a heavy layer of dew on the field.
Two hours later, the dew was joined by tears from the Trojans and their fans.
Fort Frye scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes of their game, then poured it on later in a 44-6 rout to send Centerburg home for the season.
“We came out a little flat and couldn’t execute,” Centerburg head coach Andy Colella said. “We can’t let that be the lingering feeling of this season. These kids did a great job all season long.”
The loss ends the historic run for the current crop of Centerburg seniors. The group won 34 games over four years, the most in school history.
“I don’t know if there are words to describe them,” Colella said of his seniors. “They’ve given everything we’ve asked of them, and more. They’re a special group.”
The Trojans didn’t play poorly, but they couldn’t make plays when they needed to.
Defensively, they were unable to stop Casey Lewis, the 5-foot-11 senior running back who carried the ball for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts. Along with Garrett Lockary (74 yards) and Leithon Stewart (40), the Cadets averaged 8.2 yards per rush.
“That’s what they do. They create holes that they can run through,” Colella said. “They have multiple guys that can carry the ball.”
On offense, the Trojans’ worst stretch was on their first two drives which netted 12 yards on six plays. Centerburg (8-3) couldn’t shake that poor start until the first play of the second quarter, when the team earned a first down for the first time in the game.
Sterling Armstrong caught five passes for 69 yards, but was held in check by Lewis for most of the game.
“They (Fort Frye) are extremely aggressive on defense,” Colella said. “We struggled with them all night long. They created pressure on the quarterback.”
In his final game as a Trojan, Armstrong scored his team’s lone touchdown on a diving catch of Gunnar Gregory’s throw. The 30-yard play, however, meant Centerburg still trailed, 37-6.
Gregory finished the game 16 for 33 passing for 140 yards.
Centerburg’s other weapon, Jacob Rings, managed 118 yards on the ground in 16 attempts.
Fort Frye (11-0) scored on its first two possessions. The first was a five-play, 60-yard drive ending with a short pass from Tate Engle to Lockary, who ran the rest of the 31 yards needed to score. On the next drive, Lewis burst through the line and ran 44 yards to make it 14-0.
Early in the second quarter, with the Trojans still trailing, 14-0, Rings added a rare spark to his team when he took the snap on a fake punt and ran 19 yards for a first down. The drive continued to the Fort Frye 2, but the defense never let the Trojans get closer.
Stewart scored from 21 yards out with 4:12 to play in the half to give the Cadets a 22-0 lead.
On the final play of the half, Engle found Stewart in the endzone to make the score 30-0 and put the entire second half under a running clock.
Engle finished 7 for 11 for 120 yards and three touchdowns.