Big Second Half, Defense Carry La Salle To State Final


Posted 11/28/2015 at 9:26 a.m.

Lancers Rally Twice From 14-Point Deficit, One Win From Title Defense

After falling behind the state’s No. 1-ranked team and undefeated Perrysburg by 14 twice in the first half and 21-14 at halftime, the first deficit at intermission in nine postseason games the last two years, La Salle came alive behind its defense and a big second half to post a 49-28 victory in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state semifinals Friday night at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.

The come-from-behind victory earns La Salle (12-2) a return trip to the Division II state championship game.  The Lancers, who have now won 26 of their last 29 games the last two seasons and nine straight in the postseason, will defend their state title against Massillon Perry (12-2) in the state championship at 8 p.m. Friday, December 4, at Ohio State in Columbus.  Perry defeated Hudson, 10-7, in the other semifinal Friday.

La Salle beat Nordonia, 55-20, in last year’s state final.

Being behind at halftime is a first for La Salle in its last nine state playoff games.  La Salle entered its semifinal game against Perrysburg having outscored its three postseason opponents, 143-34, this season and 245-91 in five games last year to win the school’s first state football title.  But, behind senior quarterback Trevor Hafner, Perrysburg gave the Lancers’ defense trouble in the first two quarters.

But, it was La Salle’s defense that enabled coach Jim Hilvert’s team to score 21 unanswered points in the third quarter and outscore Perrysburg, 35-7, in the second half to keep its postseason streak alive.  First, junior Jarell White intercepted a pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 21 with 8:18 remaining in the third.

Just two plays later, senior Tre’Sean Smith intercepted a pass to set up another TD run, this time a 1-yarder by senior quarterback Nick Watson that gave La Salle its first lead, 28-21, with 4:48 left in the quarter.  Watson then scored on an 8-yard run to give La Salle a double-digit lead, 35-21, going to the fourth quarter.  But Hafner responded with a 34-yard run minutes into the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 35-28.

Now holding a slim one-TD lead, La Salle turned to its rushing game led by senior Jeremy Larkin.  The University of Cincinnati commit, who finished with 16 attempts for 161 yards rushing and three TDs (the first a 36-yarder in the second quarter), scored on a 1-yard run to make it 42-28 and then added a 21-yard scoring burst late to put the game away.  Larkin has 749 yards rushing and scored 11 TDs in four playoff games.

Hafner led Perrysburg, No. 1 in the final Associated Press Division II state poll, with 149 yards rushing and two TDs on 16 attempts.  He also completed 17-of-27 passes for 193 yards and one score.  La Salle, however, was able to record three interceptions – just one less than Hafner threw in the previous 13 games, when he tossed 32 TDs and was intercepted only four times.  La Salle was No. 4 in the final AP state rankings.

Tickets for the state final will be available at La Salle High School this week.