Eyes moistened, senior CJ Billing reflected on what it meant to be part of a history-making Fort Loramie football team.
“It’s the first time it’s happened to Loramie and it’s the start of something big,” said Billing following a 28-14 loss to McComb in a Division VII state semifinal at Wapak’s Harmon Field on Saturday night. “We’ll be back. We have a special team.”
»» PHOTOS: Fort Loramie vs. McComb, football playoffs
»» RELATED: All-Area football Divisions II-III
That was the Redskins’ recurring sentiment as the end of a dream season faded away. Although a playoff regular the last decade, Loramie (12-2) had never ventured this deep into the postseason and came just one win away from playing for a state championship.
Instead, it’ll be McComb (13-1) and it’s do-everything senior Tanner Schroeder that will play for the D-VII state title next Saturday against Glouster Trimble (13-1) at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Trimble defeated Cuyahoga Heights 47-21 in the other D-VII state semi.
»» RELATED: State football championships schedule
»» RELATED: Alter defeats Norwalk in D-III state semifinal
Loramie lost only its first and last games – winning 12 straight in between – and the Redskins did it with a first-year coach, Spencer Wells. It was a perfect fit for the former standout at Delphos St. John’s who likened the small-town feel to his own upbringing.
“The players bought in literally from Day 1 and did everything I asked,” said Wells, previously the offensive coordinator at Wapak. “I know moving forward the guys will continue to do that. It’s an outstanding community and program, and I’m blessed to be part of it.”
»» PHOTOS: Alter vs. Norwalk, D-III football state semi
»» RELATED: All-Area football Divisions IV-V
The same has been said for Schroeder and McComb. Similar to Fort Loramie, McComb is a wee village tucked away in Hancock County near Findlay.
A senior who doesn’t leave the field, Schroeder’s performance against Loramie should be a record. He ran for touchdowns of 80 and 22 yards and had touchdowns passes of 60 and 52 yards. Also a defensive back, he added three interceptions, multiple tackles, kicked all the extra points and punted.
He accounted for 244 yards of offense and a lot of Loramie head shaking. And he only played QB this season because the projected starter was injured.
“He’s unbelievable,” McComb coach Kris Alge said. “That’s what he does.”
»» RELATED: Fort Loramie rallies around new coach
»» RELATED: Divisions VI-VII All-Area football
Fort Loramie had no answer for Schroeder, even after Devin Wehrman’s 5-yard run put the Redskins up 7-0. McComb answered with 21 straight points. Loramie’s offense never got untracked and was limited to 156 total yards. When the Redskins needed to get something going, too often Schroder just said no with a pick.
Mark Seger had a 45-yard TD catch from Loramie sophomore QB Collin Moore early in the forth quarter. That pulled Loramie within 21-14. Shroeder – who else? – followed with a 22-yard TD dash, then added his third pick.
»» RELATED: Marion Local has a winning combination
»» RELATED: It’s a first for Fort Loramie
It was the forth time McComb had played in a state semi since 2012 and its first win. Two seasons ago Minster won in the final minutes. In 2012, Marion Local dodged McComb in triple overtime. Both those games also were at Wapak.
“We finally got over the hump,” said Schroeder.
Wells consoled players and, like Billing, promised this was the start of something special.
“We asked our guys to leave a legacy,” Wells said. “Our guys got us to a point we had never been in history. So, they left their mark on it. Now, the challenge is for the underclassmen to take it even further. I have no doubt they’ll be motivated to do that.”
»» RELATED: Football state semifinal pairings
»» RELATED: Area teams in state semifinals
»» RELATED: Quick start propels Marion Local
»» FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: It’s Coldwater vs. Marion Local
»» RELATED: List of area seniors who signed
»» RELATED: UC lands Xenia standout
»» RELATED: Football playoffs an Alter tradition
»» RELATED: Lebanon leaving GWOC
»» RELATED: 7 things to know about the football playoffs
»» RELATED: Final football power rankings
»» FACEBOOK: For more sports you should like Marc Pendleton
»» TWITTER: You should like @MarcPendleton
»» FACEBOOK LIVE: Hartsock and Pendleton on football playoffs