It was clear from start to finish No. 5 seed Springboro and No. 4 Dublin Jerome couldn’t have been more evenly matched on Friday in the first round of the Division I, Region II playoffs.
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The game was tied 7-7 after one quarter. That remained the score at halftime. It was 14-14 after three quarters, and no one scored in the fourth. It was tied 21-21 after one overtime, 24-24 after two overtimes, 24-24 after three overtimes and 31-31 after four overtimes.
Finally, in the fifth overtime, Dublin’s Adam Booth caught a short pass on 3rd-and-7 and ran into the end zone for the go-ahead score, and Springboro couldn’t answer. The game ended when Jerome's Ryan Richards forced a Springboro fumble and Dominic Nardone recovered the ball, allowing the Celtics to advance with a 38-31 victory.
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"I'm extremely proud of our kids," Springboro coach Ryan Wilhite said. "They fought until the very end. Five overtimes? I don't think I've ever been a part of a game like that. I'm so proud of their effort. Those seniors left everything they had on the field, and they'll be remembered as just great, great players on a great, great team for years and years to come."
Jerome will play No. 1 seed Springfield, which beat Marysville 23-0 on Friday, in the regional semifinals on Nov. 15 at a neutral site that will be announced later this weekend.
Springboro finished the season 9-2. It was the program's best win total since a 9-3 mark in 2015, the last time it won a playoff game.
"I'll probably remember most the attitude of these guys," Wilhite said. "They knew every single week we could win. That was something in our culture that was improving, and that was what we were missing. (We wanted) to get it back to where we felt every single week we can win. Our guys proved that they can."
The Panthers had their chances to win this game. They trailed 7-0 when Moise Armbruster scored on a 27-yard run with 19 seconds left in the first quarter quarter.
Springboro took a 14-7 lead on a 10-yard touchdown catch by Willieon Yates with 5:24 left in the third. In the fourth, Wilhite gambled on 4th-and-1 from the Springboro 40-yard line, and the Panthers celebrated when they pushed the pile forward for the first down, but the officials had already whistled the play dead.
"The fourth-down stop on the quarterback sneak that we didn't get, it felt like the play was still going and we got it by a lot," Wilhite said. "It's hard to look our guys in the eye and tell them you don't trust them on 4th-and-inches. It was tough field position, though. I look back on that."
Taking advantage of a short field, Jerome tied the game on a 1-yard run by quarterback Ryan Miller with 8:01 left in the fourth. Later in the fourth, Springboro was driving for the go-ahead score when it lost a fumble in the red zone.
The game went to overtime, and Jerome got the ball first. Booth put the Celtics ahead with a 6-yard run. A touchdown run by Springboro's Timmy Keseday tied the score.
A field goal by Matthew Dapore put the Panthers ahead 24-21 in the second overtime, but Jerome kicker Easton Gross answered.
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In the third overtime, Booth scored on a 13-yard run, and Springfield tied it at 31-31 on its first play on a pass from Landon Palmer to Willieon Yates.
Both teams missed field goals in the fourth overtime, leading to the decisive fifth overtime.
Wilhite said he thought about going two to win the game after the two tying touchdowns in overtime but was hesitant after being stopped on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
"You don't want to put it all on one play and take a chance of that deciding a game," he said.
NOTES: Springboro was making its ninth playoff appearance and first since 2016 when it lost 35-14 to Colerain in the first round. It sought its first playoff victory since the first round in 2015 when it beat Mason 45-21. … This was the fifth playoff appearance for Jerome and third in four years. The Celtics lost 35-0 to Olentangy Liberty in the first round in 2017 and won a playoff game for the first time in 2016, beating Findlay 42-7 in the first round.
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