A season that was marked by blowouts and outstanding stat-stuffing efforts came down to inches for the Alter High School football team.
Matched against defending Division IV state champion Columbus Bishop Hartley, Knights quarterback Ryan Markoff was stuffed on 4th-and-goal late in the third quarter of what stood as a 14-7 Hartley win in a D-IV state semifinal here Friday night.
“I can honestly say that I was not in,” said Markoff, whose knee appeared to touch the ground before his extended reach with the ball crossed the goal line. “I was down. It was a good call. The ref made a great call.”
That’s what Hartley coach Brian Burchfield envisioned.
“Basically, we blitzed everybody,” he said. “We sent the whole house.”
Although another quarter remained, that essentially sealed Alter’s fate and ensured the only blemish on a 13-1 season. Hartley (12-2) will play Steubenville (13-1) in next week’s state final at Columbus. Steubenville advanced by defeating previously unbeaten Perry 51-27 in Friday’s other D-IV semi.
Defense had carried Alter all season, especially the last two impressive playoff wins over Clinton-Massie and Wyoming. But the Knights had no answer for Hartley running back Marquette Dixon.
A first-year starter, the 6-foot, 215-pound Dixon bulldozed for 252 yards on 41 carries. He scored both of Hartley’s first-half touchdowns to stake the Hawks to a 14-0 lead.
Alter never did get its offense untracked. It took a 59-yard kickoff return by John Bivens to finally jump-start Alter. The Knights responded with a 15-yard TD scamper by Markoff to account for the final score late in the second quarter.
Alter didn’t record a first down until three minutes were left in the third quarter.
“Our offense couldn’t generate much,” Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “I really thought it would be a low-scoring game because of the two defenses and it was.”
The teams essentially abandoned the pass: There were two completed passes for 13 yards. That left it up to the Knights vs. Dixon and Hartley’s single-wing attack.
Needing a stop, Hartley instead went on a 10-minute drive in the third quarter. Dixon was stopped on third down and Tony Petrosino deflected a Hartley field goal. That gave Alter one last possession with 80 yards to go in 98 seconds. Four ineffective plays later the Knights were done.
“They ate a lot of clock and we’re usually the ones who do that,” Domsitz said. “It was two great football teams. We felt it was going to be a fierce, fierce battle and it was.”
• Also on Friday, Marion Local defeated Hamler Patrick Henry 36-7 in a D-VI state semi at Lima. Marion Local (13-1) will play Cuyahoga Heights for the state title.
• Trotwood-Madison (11-2) plays Toledo Central Catholic (13-0) in a D-III state semifinal at 7 p.m. today at Lima. Also playing today is four-time defending champ Coldwater (12-1) vs. Coshocton (12-1) in a D-V semi at Lewis Center Olentangy and Minster (9-4) vs. McComb (12-1) in a D-VII semi at Wapakoneta.