Trotwood-Madison quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers ended the game with an arm in a sling. His Rams teammates were hurting as much.
Trotwood’s impressive run to the Division III high school football state championship ended just as spectacularly with a thorough 30-0 loss to Akron Archbishop Hoban at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. The Rams were just one week removed from a season-defining blowout of Toledo Central Catholic in the state semifinals, but couldn’t muster any of that hoped-for momentum going into the state final.
“We just didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” Stephens-Peppers said. “It just wasn’t going right.”
Hoban (13-2) saw to that, locking down the Rams (12-3) like few teams had done and none during Trotwood’s previous four playoff games. The Rams didn’t come close to scoring and when they did penalties were their undoing. Dethroning Hoban, also the defending D-III state champ, was a tall order for the Rams and they were no match for the Knights.
Trotwood celebrated running back Raveion Hargrove had 137 yards rushing on 24 carries, but Trotwood had little else going offensively. Stephens-Peppers, constantly hounded by Hoban’s defense, was 7 of 23 passing for 69 yards, three interceptions and that bruised limb.
“Hats off to Hoban,” said Hargrove, who totaled 1,699 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns this season. “That’s a good, physical team.”
In contrast, Hoban’s Todd Sibley rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Dann Clark was 7 of 10 passing for 165 yards and two more scores. That was the kind of production that initially enticed Ohio State University to offer both players. Instead, Sibley is headed to Pitt and Clark to Kentucky.
“We really preach that big-time players show up at big-time games,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said. “Those guys did that and, as all 15 games of the year, the defense showed up. That’s a heck of an offense we had to stop. They’ve got some great football players and they’re a great football team.”
Trotwood flexed its defensive might through the first 14 games and was at its best in allowing Central Catholic, which lost to Hoban in last year’s state final, one first down. Hoban reversed that by putting a running clock on Trotwood midway through the third quarter.
It was the sixth time in program history Trotwood had played for a state title, including five times since 2010. Their only title was the 15-0 team in 2011 that won a D-II championship. Trotwood hadn’t played for a state title since four straight from 2010-13.
“We wanted to compete and we didn’t get a chance to really get over the hump,” Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said. “We had some penalties when we had success and then once we didn’t we were always behind the chains. Being up against a good team like Hoban, you can’t be behind the chains. You’ve got to be able to compete on third downs and make 50 percent of them or better.”
Dallas Daniels led the Rams in receiving with four catches for 48 yards. Caleb Johnson added three receptions for 21 yards. That vaunted defense the Rams had leaned on all season had no answer for Hoban. Most telling was Sibley’s 56-yard TD dash through the middle of the Rams’ defenders. Garrett Houser added a 60-yard TD catch on a streak to put Hoban up 20-0 at halftime. Hoban scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half to stun Trotwood, which never recovered.
That even somewhat silenced the Cowbell Mafia, a growing group of St. Marys Memorial fans who clanged their support for Trotwood following a regional final loss to the Rams.
“I can’t explain it,” Trotwood senior linebacker Kobe Vinegar said. “You live and you learn.”