Just when the Edgewood High School football team seemed to have lost its way, D.J. Whiles put the Cougars back on track.
Edgewood watched as Mount Healthy whittled a 28-point gap down to seven in the third quarter Friday night, but Whiles made sure the Owls never got any closer.
The junior defensive back picked off quarterback Michael Crawford on each of the Owls’ next three drives — as part of his four for the night — and the Cougars rolled to a 49-28 win at Kumler Field for their first outright Southwest Ohio Conference title.
“I was just playing center field and watching the quarterback’s eyes, and I just moved when he did,” Whiles said. “We needed something real big, so I said, ‘Why not me?’ It feels great. We worked all year for this.”
Edgewood (8-2, 6-0 SWOC) had cruised to a 28-0 lead at halftime, running over the Owls (8-2, 4-2) for 255 of its 268 yards while holding the visitors to 76 total yards for the half.
However, mistakes on special teams helped Mount Healthy get back in the game the third quarter.
Derrel Williams returned the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to start the second half, and after making it 35-14 on Justice Waller’s 40-yard run, Mount Healthy recovered a fumble on ensuing kickoff. The Owls took advantage of a short field for two more scores, including a 5-yard pass from Crawford to Bryan Cook on fourth-and-goal, which cut the deficit to 35-28 with 57 seconds left in the third period.
“At halftime, I told the boys, they aren’t just going to lay down and die,” Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons said. “Typical Mount Healthy, they came back and started giving it to us, and we had to buck up and finish the game.”
But that’s when Whiles stepped up.
Edgewood held Mount Healthy off the board the remainder of the game and got two more touchdowns from Julius Hayden and Garrett, who accounted for the majority of the Cougars’ 460 rushing yards. Hayden had 206 yards and two touchdowns, while Garrett finished with 178 yards and three scores.
“Our kids played their hearts out the second half,” Mount Healthy coach Arvie Crouch said. “If they played like that in the first half, we would have been in the ballgame, but all the credit in the world to Edgewood. They are the champs, and hopefully we can be back in the hunt next year.”
The Owls had won the first four SWOC crowns and could have earned a share of the title by beating Edgewood.
“It’s always a great win no matter who you have to beat, but with them being who they were the last few years, we always talk about how they were the king of the hill and you have to take something away from them,” Clemmons said. “Tonight it’s our opportunity, and it’s our turn to be the champions.”
Both teams will compete in the playoffs next weekend, the Cougars in Division II, Region 8, and the Owls in Division III, Region 12. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce the pairings Sunday, but the Cougars appear to be headed for a road game against two-time defending state champion La Salle on Friday.
Mount Healthy 0-0-28-0—28
E: Drew Reckart 1 run (Julian Pletz kick)
E: Julius Hayden 40 run (Pletz kick)
E: Devon Garrett 4 run (Pletz kick)
E: Reckart 1 run (Pletz kick)
M: Derrel Williams 80 kickoff return (Kick blocked)
E: Garrett 3 run (Pletz kick)
M: Justice Waller 40 run (Michael Crawford run)
M: Bryan Cook 52 pass from Crawford (Jackson Baumer kick)
M: Cook 5 pass from Crawford (Baumer kick)
E: Hayden 10 run (Pletz kick)
E: Garrett 4 run (Pletz kick)