Fumble seals Moeller's state finals berth
November 25, 2012Cincinnati Moeller High School
Written by Kevin Goheen
Moeller senior linebacker Kaleb Nypaver stopped Godwin Igwebuike at the 1-yard line on a fourth-and-goal play with 32 seconds remaining to send the Crusaders to their first Division I state title game in 15 years with a 26-21 victory against Pickerington North Saturday night at Welcome Stadium.
Igwebuike, a senior running back who had 181 yards on 14 carries, had taken a direct snap out of the Wildcat formation and appeared to have a pathway to the end zone but Nypaver’s hit stopped him cold and forced a fumble. Moeller senior Ethan Frericks recovered to seal the win.
“We called timeout and could see they were about to run the Wildcat so when we saw that coming, Kaleb just made the play,” said Frericks.
Moeller (11-3) will face Toledo Whitmer (14-0) next Saturday night at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
This will be Moeller’s first state final since 1997. The Crusaders will be seeking their eighth state title and first since 1985.
There were six lead changes in the game, including four in the second half.
Moeller senior running back Keith Watkins scored what proved to be the deciding points on a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:41 remaining. The touchdown came after senior defensive back Logan Kelleher intercepted a pass at the Pickerington North 44 with 7:45 left to play. It was the only turnover of the game by the Panthers.
Moeller had eight drives inside Pickerington North territory but twice turned it over and was once held on downs.
“They were so tough on the goal line. They played great defense tonight,” said Moeller coach John Rodenberg. “It was a battle between two good football teams. I’m just proud of our kids.”
Senior Joe Eramo rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns as Pickerington North focused its defensive efforts on Watkins. His 34-yard touchdown run around the left side in the third quarter gave Moeller a 20-14 lead.
“I heard one of the defensive backs yell ‘he’s going to cut back’ so I immediately got in my mind that if he’s looking for the cutback I’m going to go play-side,” said Eramo. “I went for it and there was just one guy to beat. I gave him a little shoulder and no one else was there.”
Watkins finished with 113 yards on 23 carries to push his season total to 2,076 yards. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in 13 of 14 games this season.
Moeller had the ball in Pickerington North territory on all four of its possessions in the first half but led just 10-7. The Crusaders twice turned the ball over inside the 10, including a fumble by Watkins at the 1 on what turned out to be the final play of the first half. Watkins was hit and lost the ball as he jumped for the goal line. He wouldn’t have scored if he had held on to the ball.