NORTH ROBINSON — Head coach Ryan Teglovic knows he had a special group.
“I can’t say enough about our senior class. They’ve been unbelievable from day one. They way they fought all the way through in this game. Last year, all the injuries they went through.”
The Eagles (8-1) led most of the game, going on top 27-7 early before falling 35-34 to Fairview in the Division VI, Region 22 regional semifinal Saturday night. The Apaches (9-0) advance to play Columbus Grove at Defiance High School in the regional finals.
Colonel Crawford displayed an amazing ground and pound attack, particularly in the first half in building that lead.
“Our offensive line played tough, physical and play together,” Teglovic said. “Obviously, we have two big backs in the backfield. They run hard and are extremely hard to tackle.”
Tristan Cross ran for 277 yards on 40 carries and fellow senior Cade Hamilton added 163 yards.
But Fairview relied heavily on its aerial attack, which came as no surprise.
“They average 50-some points a game. We knew what we had in store for us. We slowed them up at times,” Teglovic said.
Quarterback Doug Rakes and receiver Cade Ripke put on their own show playing pitch and catch. The duo teamed up for 131 yards through the air.
Overall Rakes completed 32-of-50 pass attempts for 349 yards and three scores.
“It was just a heck of a football game. They got 16 seniors on that team and they made some big plays down the stretch. We played a good football team. They made a few more plays at the end of the game than we did.”
Head coach Doug Rakes admitted the Eagles presented a problem running the football.
“Colonel Crawford on film is big and physical. We knew it and film didn’t do it justice,” he said.
“We got here and they got road graders up there and backs who can get it done.”
He also admitted his team wasn’t stopping Crawford in the first half.
“We went in at halftime and it’s looking bleak.” Rakes said. “They were doing what they wanted. As coaches we discussed some different adjustments. Coach Ken Boland talked us out of the first one and we made a different adjustment.
“I don’t think we shut down the edge, but they held it up long enough for our skill guys to come up and make some plays.”
Teglovic acknowledged that adjustment.
“They played us a little differently defensively. They brought a couple bigger guys in at the outside linebacker spot, played more of a 5-3 instead of a 3-4.”
It slowed the Eagles’ ground attack and allowed Luke Timbrook’s one-yard touchdown run to tie the game 27-27 with 7:02 to play.
But Cross gave his team the lead back at 34-27 with a two-yard run and just 2:20 left in the game.
After rallying from a 20-point deficit, Fairview cut the margin to 34-33 with a decision to make. After Caleb Frank scored the touchdown, Rakes consulted with his team.
“I asked the kids what they wanted to do. It was 100 percent; they all wanted to go for two,” Rakes said.
The result was Frank catching a pass for the two-point conversion with 1:14 remaining to give the Apaches their second regional final appearance in three years. He had seven catches for 87 yards.
Afterward, Teglovic saluted his seniors.
“They’ve kept their heads together and they’ve taken us to new heights. We were right here knocking on the door of being in a regional championship game. We’re gonna miss them.”