Moeller beats Mentor in shootout for ninth title

CANTON – Quarterbacks Gus Ragland of Cincinnati Moeller and Conner Krizancic of Mentor were the co-Offensive Players of the Year in Division I this season according to the Associated Press. They lived up to that billing Saturday.
 
Ragland and Krizancic put on a show the likes Ohio’s big school state championship game has never seen before as Moeller outlasted Mentor 55-52 at Fawcett Stadium.

Not until Ragland took a final knee was the game out of doubt. Krizancic threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Daugherty with 44 seconds left to get the Cardinals back to within three points but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds, allowing Moeller to run out the clock for the program’s ninth state title and second consecutive championship.

Moeller (14-1) was ranked No. 5 in the final AP state poll; Mentor (13-2) was No. 6. The Cardinals scored at least 26 points in all but one of their games this season. Only four times had Moeller allowed more than 21 points to an opponent this season but on a frigid late afternoon in Northeast Ohio, this was a day for offense.

“We knew playing Mentor it was going to have to be a shootout,” said Moeller coach John Rodenberg. “I think coach (Steve) Trivisonno has got a great offensive mind. We knew what we had to do going into the game. We knew we had to score points and that’s what it turned out to be.

“This game is fun for fans and it’s a little nerve-wracking for the coaches. I think once you get on the bus and once you go home you think what a fun night that was because a lot was concerned. I’m an offensive guy at heart. I’m glad it’s over.”

The game set or equaled 17 Division I championship game records.

Ragland had a hand in all eight of Moeller’s touchdowns, throwing three scoring passes and rushing for five, as he produced a combined 462 yards. Krizancic totaled 521 yards with 419 passing and accounted for five of the Cardinals’ touchdowns. That is an Ohio High School Athletic Association record for combined passing/rushing yards in any division, the OHSAA confirmed late Saturday night.

Kenton’s Ben Mauk, a former quarterback at the University of Cincinnati, totaled 482 yards against Licking Valley in 2001, while younger brother Maty Mauk, now at Missouri, had 471 total yards against Norwayne in 2011.

Ragland’s five touchdowns equaled the state title game record set by Bo Delande of Hilliard Davidson against Mentor in a 36-35 Davidson win in 2006. Krizancic’s passing yardage broke the previous mark of 399 yards set by Elder’s Mark Miller against Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2008. Mentor junior wide receiver Eddie Daugherty set an all-division state title game record with 18 receptions. Those catches totaled 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Daugherty also threw a 44-yard touchdown pass one play after Mentor recovered an onside kick with 11:34 remaining in regulation. Daugherty took a handoff and ran hard to the right side, stopped suddenly and threw a perfect strike to Corey Plavcan to cut Moeller’s lead to 10 points, 48-38. Daugherty had caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Krizancic prior to the onside kick.

“We’ve been down before and we play with great chemistry and knew we could get back in the game.

Moeller scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions at one juncture; two on passes by Ragland and four rushes by the senior as they built a 48-26 lead in the third quarter. They began the game with a 13-0 spurt on touchdown passes of 37 yards to Isaiah Gentry and 57 yards to Chase Pankey by Ragland in the first quarter.

“My performance has been kind of blown out of proportion. I owe it all to the guys up front and the athletes around me. When you have talent around you like that, it’s easy to be a good quarterback,” said Ragland. “They were in a Cover-3 man look and, like I said, with the athletes we have at wide receiver it’s easy for them to make a move and get behind the defenders. I’m just throwing the ball and letting them run under it. They’re catching it and finishing the play.”

Mentor never led or was able to tie the game.

“We needed one more stop. We had our chances,” said Trivosonno. “We needed one stop. They weren’t going to stop us either. They just got the lead early and were able to hold onto it.”

There were just four punts in the game; Mentor punted on its first two possessions and not again afterwards. Each team turned the ball over three times; Moeller scored 14 points off its extra chances, while Mentor got 17 points off its opportunities. A blocked
extra point by Moeller’s Sam Hubbard that left Mentor trailing 27-23 in the second quarter proved crucial; Mentor went for 2-point conversions twice and failed each time.

Both teams topped the previous record for most points in a Division I title game (50 by Colerain in 2004). Moeller’s eight touchdowns are a championship game record, as are the combined 15 touchdowns the teams scored. It was just one touchdown shy of equaling the 16 touchdowns scored by Mogadore and St. Henry in a 61-58 Mogadore victory in the 1996 Division VI title game.

Moeller last won back-to-back state titles in 1979-80. It also won three titles in a row from 1975-77. The program’s nine state championships are second to the 11 owned by Cleveland St. Ignatius.

Mentor was attempting to become the first Division I public school to defeat three private/Catholic schools in the same postseason since the OHSAA expanded to five divisions in 1994. The Cardinals defeated St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward the last two weeks to reach the state finale for the third time. The Cardinals lost previously to Hilliard Davidson (2006) and Cincinnati St. Xavier (2007).