The Alter High School football team used an unconventional method to win its second regional championship in the last three seasons — its passing game.
Knights senior quarterback Connor Bazelak threw for 145 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score as Alter beat Wapakoneta 21-7 to win the Division III, Region 12 championship on Friday night at Piqua High School’s Alexander Stadium.
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Bazelak hit fellow senior Derek Willits on three deep balls, one that went for a 42-yard TD and two more completions of 36 and 30 yards that set up short TD runs.
“I don’t know who was calling the plays tonight,” Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “They were big plays. Wapakoneta has an amazing defense. They’re a great football team. We knew that watching the film. We like to think we can run and throw the football and go with what’s working.”
The Knights (12-1) won their 12th straight game, advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 2016. Alter will play at 7 p.m. next Friday at a site to be determined.
“I keep going back to where we were 12 or 13 weeks ago coming off that loss (at Fairmont) and here we are regional champions,” Domsitz said. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction in that and I’m proud of our kids.”
Alter is known for its veer option attack, but it knew it had to throw the ball against the Redskins’ defense, Domsitz said.
Willits finilshed with four receptions for 120 yards. Sophomore running back Brandon McDonald added 76 yards and a touchdown for the Knights.
“I’ve been throwing to Derek for a while, probably eight years,” Bazelak said. “We’ve had a good connection. We connected on a few of them. It was a great way to get the ball moving and get down to the goal line.”
Defensively, the Knights played without three starters who were injured during last week’s victory over Badin. Alter forced a fumble on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line that kept the Redskins out of the end zone with two minutes remaining in the first half. The Knights also stopped the Redskins twice on fourth down, including the Redskins’ first drive of the game.
“Those were tremendous,” Domsitz said. “In the ebb-and-flow of a ball game, those are the kinds of plays you’ve got to make and those are the kind of things that need to fall your way if you’re going to win the ball game. We made some mistakes, but overall, we played pretty good football. I’m very pleased.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce the state semifinal pairings on Sunday afternoon. The three other remaining teams in D-III include Columbus Eastmoor Academy (12-1), Norwalk (10-3) and Kenston (12-1).
“It was a great win,” Bazelak said. “The first step is winning that regional championship and now our goal is to win state. We’ll take every game one week at a time, every practice at a time. Our goal was to be practicing on Thanksgiving, so we did it.”