For the second time this season, Ada went into Satdium Park and came away with a win over Jefferson. (Times Bulletin/Randy Shellenberger)
BY JIM METCALFE
DELPHOS - Ada needed a score with 45 seconds left in the fourth period to beat Jefferson 25-20 in week nine of the regular season at Stadium Park.
Friday night in Region 20 quarterfinal action back at Stadium Park - matching up these same teams - the seventh-seeded Bulldogs didn't need quite the same heroics at least as late as the first time.
A 100-yard interception return by Ada senior safety Matt Wilcox with 3:12 left gave the Bulldogs enough cushion to hold off a late Wildcat surge and emerge with a 27-22 victory and move on in the tournament with a 8-3 mark.
With Ada leading 22-16 with 7:33 to go in the contest, the Wildcats - behind senior quarterback Austin Jettinghoff - marched from their own 11 to a fourth-and-four at the Ada nine in 11 plays. Jettinghoff was 5-of-9 on the series for 79 yards. However, on the fateful twelfth play, he rolled left from the shotgun, but his intended receiver slipped. The pass bounced off the receiver's hands and into the waiting arms of Wilcox at the goal line. Wilcox tore off down the sideline behind a convoy. He slipped a couple of tacklers and kept going, finishing in the end zone 100 yards away with 3:12 left. The two-point pass failed as Ada led 27-16.
"That's what it came down to. We needed to make a couple more plays. Ada did and they deserve the credit, they're a good team, and it sucks someone had to lose tonight," Jefferson coach Bub Lindeman said.
After the final penalty of the night for the Wildcats on the kickoff, Jefferson had to start at their own 24. Jettinghoff was 6-of-7 on the drive for all 76 yards. He connected with junior Jordan McCann three times for 30 yards, including the scoring play - a 13-yarder to the junior in the left side of the end zone where McCann outjumped the defender for the ball. The two-point pass failed as Jefferson trailed 27-22 with 1:32 left.
The attempted onside kick went out of bounds at the Ada 48. Jefferson - with two timeouts left - needed a stop but a 12-yard Wilcox run gave the visitors the game-clinching first down.
"We had way too many penalties. We really put ourselves behind the eight-ball with them," Lindeman continued. "We also had way too many turnovers to beat a team like Ada with the way they can move the ball. We moved the ball well, we just didn't take advantage of the many chances we had."
Jefferson got on board first. After senior Tyler Mox ran back the opening kickoff 75 yards to set up the Wildcats at the Ada 10, a penalty set the Jeffcats back and forced a 25-yard field goal by junior Kurt Wollenhaupt for a 3-0 lead just 2:06 into the contest.
Ada moved from its 35 to the Jefferson 16 in five plays but a pair of sacks of Wilcox by senior Isaac Illig and McCann and a four-yard completion to Spencer Archer ended the drive on downs at the 16.
The Wildcats appeared set to score again, traveling from there to the Ada 15 for a first-and-10 in five plays and an Ada penalty. However, a crucial sack of Jettinghoff and a fumble recovery by Luke Long-Green gave the ball to Ada at the 28. From there, it took the purple-and-gold seven plays to go in front.
From the Delphos 30, Wilcox threw down the left hashmark to Archer just behind the defender. Wilcox hauled it in at the 10 and finished in the end zone. Jackson Secor added the kick for a 7-3 Ada edge with 57 seconds left in the first period.The Wildcats once more had a promising drive short-circuited by a pair of penalties for 20 yards before having to punt away, as did Ada on its next drive.
That left Jefferson to open its next possession at the eight. Despite a holding penalty, they managed to drive the distance in nine plays, including a 57-yard connection from Jettinghoff to senior Ross Thompson. At the Ada 7, senior Zavier Buzard took a sweep left and refused to go down, fighting out of two tackles and battling to the end zone. Wollenhaupt made it 10-7 with 3:24 left in the first half.
Jefferson had a chance to add more distance as junior Trevor Dudgeon picked off a Wilcox aerial and returned it 25 yards to the Ada 48 but the red-and-white could do nothing with it and had to punt, effectively ending the half.
Ada opened the second half with a 14-play, 72-yard drive. Wilcox was 7-of-8 on the drive for 67 yards, capping it off on fourth-and-10 at the Delphos 12, connecting with Austin Dumbaugh over the middle for the touchdown. Wilcox ran in the two-pointer for a 15-10 edge with 6:31 showing in the third.
A crucial play on the drive was a fourth-and-one at the Ada 37, when upback Long-Green made the first down by mere inches, to the consternation of the home fans.
Jefferson replied with a 10-play, 68-yard drive. Jettinghoff completed 4-of-5 for 53 yards. However, Buzard finished it on one-yard, plunge over right tackle with a leap over the pile at the goal line. However, the conversion pass failed, leaving the Delphos up 16-15 with 2:34 showing in the third quarter.
Ada replied with a 10-play, 69-yard sequence, aided by two crucial penalties. However, this time all but one - a pass to Blake Ansley for eight yards - was a rush. Wilcox did it from the Delphos four, going straight up the middle from the shotgun. Sophomore Josh Teman picked off the two-pointer as Ada led 22-16 with 10:52 left.
A celebration penalty on the TD forced Ada to kick off from its 25 and Dumbaugh lined it hard at a Delphos front-wall player, hitting him, and the kicker recovered at the Ada 32. However, the visitors could not take advantage and kicked away, setting up the late-game heroics.
"We played hard, no question. I'm proud of the effort we had. We had a slow start the first game but not tonight," Lindeman added. "We have a lot to be proud of: winning the conference, making the playoffs, getting a home game. That all comes from the leadership this group of 11 seniors showed. It's tough to see it end."
Delphos Jefferson finish their season at 9-2.