It wasn’t as if Centerville was on football life support, but almost.
Desperately needing a win and coming off a last-play loss, Centerville hung a sensational 28-21 defeat on host Springboro in a Thursday night high school football Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover special that lived up to its hype. And the Elks (2-3) did it the hard way, trading unlikely big plays in the final minutes.
The final miscue was a dart into the belly of Centerville junior defensive back Riley Poulton. That he was even playing was a bit of a stretch: he quit football after sixth grade and finally gave in this past summer.
“My friends have been nagging me since my freshman year to come back,” admitted Poulton, whose interception at the goal line with less than one minute left clinched the clutch win. “I finally gave into them and I’m glad I did. It’s been a great year.”
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Incredibly, that theft was set up when a Centerville punt snap ricocheted off an Elks blocker and was recovered by Springboro’s Tre Poster on Centerville’s 17 with 56 seconds left.
Until those two fireworks erupted, Centerville defensive back Austin Hanes was the Elks’ hero with an interception with 2:10 left. Both times Springboro quarterback Brody Mahle was targeting all-world receiver Nick Kovaks. Verbally committed to the University of Toledo, the GWOC’s leading receiver torched the Centerville secondary with 11 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet another game-deciding play was turned in by Elks running back Mason Kuhr, who zig-zagged 44 yards for what held up as the winning touchdown with 2:51 left.
“In a tight ballgame like that, there’s seven or eight (plays) that you can point to,” an elated Centerville coach Rodney Roberts said. “I was just glad we were able to make it down the stretch. To have our heart ripped out last week, we needed this badly. The seniors, the staff, our community, we all needed it. It gives us a little bit of life and I’m really happy for our guys.”
Mahle was 19 of 29 for 178 yards and those two Kovacs scores, but also had those two costly picks for Springboro (3-2). Kuhr had 150 yards rushing on 23 carries and also scored twice.
CareFlight Stadium was mostly orange. Both student sections wore orange tribute T-shirts to stricken Springboro senior lineman Mac Reese, who was diagnosed with leukemia last week. He remains hospitalized.
The contest was similar to last season’s showdown in which visiting Springboro won 50-49 when the Panthers batted down an Elks’ extra-point pass on the final play.
“It’s very fulfilling as a coach to watch guys work hard and stay the course and finally have some of that success they so greatly deserve,” Roberts said. “We’re really happy.”