With time running out, Trotwood-Madison linebacker Jayvanare Nelloms got a little help from his friend. The end result is a spot in Rams football history.
“James Parker, he told me to help out with the receiver,” said Nelloms, whose goal-line interception and long return in the final seconds secured a Division III high school football state-title clinching 27-19 defeat of Dresden Tri-Valley on Saturday night. “Much love to him, because he told me what it was about to be.”
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Fittingly for a championship game at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, it was Trotwood’s fiercest and final test to cap a perfect 15-0 season. It’s the second state title for Trotwood, which also went 15-0 and won the 2011 D-II championship.
Unlike the bulk of its blowout victories, this was an intriguing matchup of programs that had never played. Although Tri-Valley, anchored at Muskingum County, had been in the playoffs every year since 2011, the Scotties had never played for a state title. Trotwood was making its sixth title appearance and fifth since 2010.
That made Tri-Valley (13-2) a big underdog, which was fine with Scotties coach Justin Buttermore.
“I’m certain that’s why people thought (Trotwood) was going to beat us by 30 or 40 because of the intangibles, the height, weight, the 40 times,” he said, “but you can’t measure heart.”
Trotwood senior William McDaniel delivered three touchdowns. His 10-yarder with less than a minute left in the third quarter regained the lead for Trotwood. That was only the third time this season the Rams had trailed, the first against D-I state champ Pickerington Central in Week 3 and in the state semifinals against Toledo Central Catholic.
McDaniel also had a nifty catch and mostly 56-yard run on a screen pass from quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers.
Ra’veion Hargrove’s brilliant career ended on a relative high note. He had 138 yards rushing and opened the scoring with a 41-yard run in the first quarter. “That’s why they call me Big-Play Ray,” he said.
“Twenty-one carries for (138) yards, as crazy and it sounds that’s kind of holding him in check,” said Buttermore.
But Hargrove also suffered a minor left knee injury that resulted in McDaniel shifting from receiver to the backfield. Hargrove, Ohio’s Mr. Football runner-up this season, finishes his Rams career with more than 7,000 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” he said. “I’m still happy we’re 15-0, but I’m going to miss it. I love Ram Nation.”
Tri-Valley knocked out state powers Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary – which they had lost to in the season opener – and two-time defending D-IV state champ Columbus Bishop Hartley the previous two weeks and showed why.
Quarterback Andrew Newsom completed 11 of 19 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. And he was just as lethal running, going for 149 yards, which included a stunning 99-yard TD dash after Trotwood appeared to have Tri-Valley pinned for a second-quarter safety.
McDaniel had 92 yards rushing and another 93 return yards. Stephens-Peppers completed six passes for 115 yards.
Newsom completed several passes the moved the Scotties from midfield to 1st-and-goal at the Trotwood 7 with 21 seconds remaining. Tri-Valley had to score and add a two-point conversion to force overtime. But Nelloms’ pick – his first of the season – ended that threat.
He raced nearly to midfield and was pushed out of bounds and into the Rams’ sideline. His teammates swarmed him and the Rams’ celebration was on.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but at the end we finally did what we had to do to win the game,” Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said. “We knew this was going to be a fight.”
It’s the fourth state football championship for Greater Western Ohio Conference teams. Besides Trotwood’s two titles, Piqua won a D-II title in 2006 and Lebanon also won a D-II championship in 1998, although the Warriors were a Fort Ancient Valley Conference member then. Wayne and Centerville also have played for D-I football state titles.
Trotwood was on a state-title mission ever since the Rams were crushed 30-0 by Akron Archbishop Hoban in last year’s D-III state title game. Their season-long cry was “Finish!”
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Hargrove said. “All the hard work we put in all year long, it’s finally paid off.”