Trotwood’s defense swarms a ball carrier during its Division III state semifinal against Columbus Bishop Hartley on Friday at London High School. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Trotwood-Madison holds off Columbus Hartley, advances to state championship game

Anderson’s sack and an interception allowed the Rams to finally breathe easy in a 24-19 Division III state semifinal at London High School. The Rams led 24-0 entering the fourth quarter, but the Hawks’ Wing-T offense came alive with touchdown drives of 77, 65 and 42 yards.

“In the fourth quarter we started spreading apart,” Anderson said. “We weren’t coming together as a team.”

»RELATED: State semifinal scores, boxscores

When the Hawks started from the Trotwood 42 with 3:02 left, the outcome that seemed set nine minutes before was suddenly in doubt.

After a holding call cost Hartley a first down at the 13, Anderson, a cornerback, saw quarterback Miles Fleming roll out to his right. Anderson knew the play from film and blitzed. He sacked Fleming for a 13-yard loss. On a final desperation play on fourth-and-25, Anderson intercepted the pass at the two in the final minute to stop the comeback.

“It was read,” Anderson said. “That’s why I blitzed. I just shed the block.”

Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said Anderson’s sack was a lot of instinct.

“These kids played in that Wing-T system in peewee so they kind of know the ins and outs of it and that helps them because they can relate to some of the calls and some of the rollouts and some of the things that they see,” Graham said.

Now the Rams (11-3) are in the best of situations. They will play Mansfield Senior at 3 p.m. Friday at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton. The Rams will be playing in their sixth state final and going for their third state title. The Rams won it all in 2011 and 2017.

Anderson, who has committed to play college football at Cincinnati, was a starter on the 2017 title team and played on the Rams’ state basketball championship team last year.

“Trying to leave a legacy,” he said.

To do that, Graham knows Anderson and his teammates must play 48 minutes. That will probably be repeated many times this week after this game almost got away from them.

“It’s a 48-minute ballgame, and at halftime some of our kids get complacent,” Graham said. “We try to teach them it’s zero-zero, but they’re still high school kids. We got put in bad situations, but we’ve got to learn from those mistakes.”

Anderson was big-play machine to lead the Rams to a 24-0 lead. He caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Stewart on the opening drive. The Rams were in the same position later in the first quarter when Stewart lofted another pass to the end zone for Anderson. This time Anderson made a diving, one-handed grab for a 26-yard score and 14-0 lead.

“Practice,” he said. “All day in practice.”

The Rams had two third-and-goal opportunities at the one in the second quarter but came away with only an 18-yard field goal by Carter Mims. Three straight false start penalties took them out of range the second time.

Anderson made another big play with a 40-yard punt return touchdown at the end of the third quarter.

“He competes and he’s an athlete,” Graham said. “I tell him if you go out and work hard you can reach your potential.”

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