NORTH LIMA, Ohio (WKBN) – The East Palestine Bulldogs have not qualified for the playoffs since 2009, and have not won a league title since 2002. This year the Dogs have accomplished both as they beat the South Range Raiders 26-25 Friday night to clinch an outright Red Tier title of the ITCL.
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That one-point victory was courtesy of the hand of a defensive lineman. With just three seconds remaining in the contest, the Raiders Levi Taylor lined up for a potential game winning 46-yard field goal. First, the Bulldogs were called for being off sides, moving the Raiders five yards closer setting up a 41-yard attempt. Taylor had set the Raiders school record earlier this year with a 41-yard kick. But this time the Bulldogs senior lineman Mike Loyd was able to get a hand on the ball causing the ball to only go a short distance. With the block, the Bulldog faithful and sideline erupted.
“I just went right through the line like I’m coached to,” Loyd said. “If you do things right every play, things go your way. We knew they had a solid field goal kicker and we don’t under estimate anybody. We played our hardest and that’s why we won tonight.”
“It means a lot, it’s special,” an exhausted Bulldogs Coach Tony Foster said. “Hats off to South Range, they have a great program, they do a great job. The kids, I interact with them every day. I’m glad they came out and played well, but I’m a little selfish in that I’m glad that my team came out and played just a hair better.”
“It’s crazy,” Bulldogs freshman quarterback Parker Sherry said. “At the beginning of the season Coach Foster told us that this was going to be the game. Week ten would be the game for the ITCL and playoff hopes.”
The Bulldogs will find out Sunday when the official playoffs are announced who they will play in the first round of the OHSAA tournament next week.
“I don’t know, it’s my first experience with it,” Foster said on how special Sunday will be. “I look forward to it. We’ll find out who our opponent is and we’ll work on it from there.”
The game winning points came with just 1:11 remaining in the game when Sherry hit Jarrod Figley on a 32-yard strike. The clutch drive came just after the Raiders had taken a 25-19 lead with 2:26 remaining on a 8-yard run by Nathan Daniszewski.
“Personally, I was excited,” Sherry exclaimed about the Raiders taking the lead with 2:26 left. “Here is my chance, lets go down the field and score. We all knew we were going to go down there and score.”
The game see-sawed all night as the Raiders scored first on a 4-yard run by Ethan Dominguez with 10:31 left in the second quarter. The Bulldogs answered right back with a 11-yard run by Josh Pickett with 4:29 before the half.
But the Raiders would take a three point lead into the intermission when Taylor kicked his first of two field goals on the night from 27-yards as time expired. With the kick the Raiders held a 9-6 lead at halftime.
The two team scored quickly to start the second half as Sherry would race 75-yards for a touchdown with 8:25 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 12-9 lead.
The Raiders would answer on their next play from scrimmage when back-up quarterback Greg Dunham hit Nick Stanton on a swing pass in the left flat. Stanton would break free for a 80-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders a 16-12 lead with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter.
“We lost our quarterback in the first series,” Raiders Coach Dan Yeagley said. “We had to move some people around, and Greg Dunham had to step in and play quarterback. He’s not a quarterback, but he did a great job.”
Dunham would connect on 15 of 20 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown.
The Bulldogs would then go on an impressive 13-play, 51-yard drive to take a 20-16 lead when Sherry hit senior receiver Ryan Ross in the back of the end zone from 15-yards out. That score came with 2:25 left in the quarter.
South Range would add a second Taylor field goal with 9:53 remaining in the game to cut the Bulldogs lead down to 20-19. That would set up the last minute excitement that saw the Bulldogs win.