Football Falls In Final Minute At #8 California, 36-34

Photo by David Miller
Photo by David Miller

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Ohio Dominican's football team rallied from a 33-14 third quarter deficit and took a lead in the fourth, but No. 8 California (Pa.) hit a late field goal to escape with a 36-34 win Thursday night in the 2017 season opener.

A 52 yard touchdown pass from junior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) to sophomore Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.) on an end around gave the Panthers a 34-33 lead with 5:45 to play in the fourth, ODU's first lead of the game.

The Vulcans answered with a 13 play, 65 yard drive that chewed up 4:52 off the clock and resulted in a 31 yard field goal to put the hosts back in front with 49.7 seconds left.

With just one timeout left, the Panther offense moved quickly, as senior quarterback Grant Russell (Newark, Ohio) connected with junior Jacob Mercier (Blacklick, Ohio) on a 15 yard pass and hooked up three times with Contini, the last an 11 yard gain, to get ODU to the Cal 33 with just over five seconds left.

However, a 50 yard field goal attempt had the distance but sailed just wide left as time expired.

The Panthers had fought back from that 19 point deficit by scoring two touchdowns late in the third quarter to climb back in. Sophomore David Turner (Fort Wayne, Ind.) had a 34 yard kickoff return and Russell connected with Contini on a 30 yard pass down the far sideline to reach Cal territory. Russell then kept it himself around the left side of the line for a five yard touchdown run to bring the Panthers within 33-21 with just over four minutes left in the quarter.

The defense then came up with a stop, and the Panthers marched quickly to close the quarter. Completions of 10 yards to Washington and 19 yards to sophomore EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) took the Panthers inside the 25, and Colson capped the drive with a five yard touchdown run to bring ODU within 33-28 at the end of the quarter.

The defense continued to stand tall in the fourth quarter, coming up with stops on a third-and-two and a fourth-and-one to give the ball back to the offense. The latter stop helped set up Contini's go-ahead touchdown pass to Washington.

ODU outgained Cal 513-452 in the contest. However, the Panthers were whistled for 10 penalties, costing them 99 yards, while the home team was not called for an infraction.

Russell completed 28-of-37 passes for 378 yards, just six shy of a career high, and threw two touchdowns. Washington caught five balls for a team-high 137 yards and a pair of scores, Turner finished with nine grabs for 101 yards, and Contini caught nine passes for 97 yards.

Junior Ross Thompson (Delphos, Ohio) led the defense with 10 tackles, senior Tre McIntyre (North Lewisburg, Ohio) made eight stops with a sack, and senior Cameron Kohl (Hilliard, Ohio) also finished with eight tackles.

Both teams scored on their opening drives, with Cal marching 91 yards on 13 plays to open the scoring and the Panthers countering with an 11 play, 68 yard drive. Senior Brandon Schoen (Lewis Center, Ohio) ran for 15 yards on a fourth-and-one play, and facing fourth-and-six from the Cal 26, Russell hooked up with Turner on a 26 yard catch and run for a score to knot the game at the 3:56 mark of the first quarter.

The Vulcans scored on their ensuing possession to take a 14-7 lead late in the quarter, and the second quarter was a defensive struggle until late in the period. Cal scored a touchdown with 1:53 left to extend its lead to 21-7, but the Panthers answered quickly. Russell threw a pass that was deflected downfield but into the hands of Washington, who ran untouched to the end zone for a 52 yard score to bring ODU within 21-14 with 1:04 left.

However, Cal moved 56 yards in seven plays and was able to hit a 32 yard field goal with two seconds left in the half to take a 24-14 halftime lead.

Cal extended the lead to 26-14 on a safety with less than nine minutes to play in the third quarter, as ODU was backed up on its own one yard line to start the drive. The Vulcans followed that with another touchdown drive to take its 33-14 lead with 6:26 to play in the frame.

Ohio Dominican remains on the road to take on Ashland at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9.

Contact: Scott Miles