Alter storms back from early deficit to beat Ross, notch 12th final four berth

Cutline 1: Alter High School running back Branden McDonald runs against the Ross defense during their Division III regional final game on Friday night. The Knights won 35-21. Micahel Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Cutline 1: Alter High School running back Branden McDonald runs against the Ross defense during their Division III regional final game on Friday night. The Knights won 35-21. Micahel Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Knights outscored Rams 35-7 after falling behind 14-0 in first quarter

ROSS TWP. -- Ross' first appearance in a football regional final couldn’t have started any better.

It couldn’t have ended any better for playoff-tested Alter.

The run-oriented Knights took the lead for good on senior quarterback Briane Shane’s 73-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Patrick Connor, and senior running back Brandon McDonald created breathing room with a 27-yard touchdown run as Alter shook off a shaky start to put together a 35-21 win over the Rams in the Division III, Region 12 championshoip game at Ross on Friday.

The 12th regional championship in program history lifts Alter (8-2), ranked 10th in the Associated Press Division III statewide poll, to a state semifinal berth against No. 8 Columbus St. Francis DeSales next Friday night at a site to be announced.

“It never gets old,” Knights coach Ed Domsitz said. “It’s a good feeling. I’ve been where Ross is. I know how it feels. This is probably the best season they’ve had in years.”

Ross (8-2) had never won a playoff game before winning three this season.

“I’m really, really proud of these kids,” Rams coach Kenyon Commins said after handing off the regional runner-up trophy. "With everything that’s going on, we got to be something positive for the community.

“We’re pretty excited where the program is headed.”

McDonald gained 168 yards on 22 carries to lead Alter to its eighth straight win after an 0-2 start.

“ “That was a slugfest," Commins said. "Everybody’s going to be sore tomorrow.”

Ross quarterback C.J. Boze scores one of his three touchdowns against Alter in the Division III, Region 12 finals on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Ross quarterback C.J. Boze scores one of his three touchdowns against Alter in the Division III, Region 12 finals on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Ross senior quarterback C.J. Boze finished with 151 yards on 22 carries and three TDs.

“In the beginning, we couldn’t stop their quarterback,” Domsitz said. “He’s one of the best option quarterbacks I’ve seen in a while.”

Ross piled up an 11-minute advantage in time of possession while Alter put together a 410-272 advantage in total offense, primarily on the strength of two pass plays totaling 95 yards.

Boze scored on the game’s second play from scrimmage and freshman Aiden Brown was credited with recovering Alter’s fumble of the ensuing kickoff. The Rams capitalized with Boze’s 8-yard run on their way to a quick 14-0 lead with 5:47 left in the first quarter.

“I credit our kids for not losing their poise,” Domsitz said. “If you lose your poise in that situation, you’re going home. Your season’s over.”

“As a captain, me and the other captains couldn’t let them get their heads down,” McDonald said. “We told our guys to keep going. We hate falling behind.”

“I loved the way we started,” Commins said. “We knew coming in it would come down to one or two stops. I think they stopped us twice.”

Shane got the Knights on the scoreboard with a 1-yard sneak with 1:51 left in the first quarter, and they tied the score on junior fullback Antonio Murphy Jr.'s 3-yard run with 1:34 left in the first half. That capped a 14-play, 8-minute drive that included McDonald’s two-yard gain on a fourth-and-1 play.

Like Ross in the first half, the Knights took their first lead on the second play from scrimmage in the second half when junior running back C.J. Hicks, an Ohio State recruit, broke loose for a 56-yard touchdown run.

Ross answered with a 14-play drive that consumed 7 minutes, 21 seconds and ended with Boze’s 8-yard run for his third touchdown. That drive included a fourth-and-five play at Alter’s 38-yard line that Boze converted with a 28-yard run.

McDonald scored his clinching touchdown on the first play after Hicks recovered an Alter fumble.

“It felt great to get us up two scores,” McDonald said.

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