SHARONVILLE -- Moeller junior running back Jordan Marshall, the Southwest District Division I Offensive Player of the Year, missed the entire second half of the Crusader’s Region 4 championship game against Lakota West on Friday.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Marshall scored two touchdowns before leaving with a minor injury, but Moeller didn’t need him after halftime. Fellow running backs Alex Weeder, Brett Kelley and Isaac Shade teamed up with a dominant offensive line to control the clock and lead the Greater Catholic League South Division power past the Firebirds 38-20 at Princeton’s Jake Sweeney Automotive Stadium.
Weeder, a 5-9, 165-pound senior, gained 112 yards on 17 carries. Kelly, 5-8, 160-pound senior, gained 43 yards on 13 carries.
“They whupped us,” Lakota West coach Tom Bolden said. “They whupped us up front. Hats off to their offensive line.”
Moeller (13-1) gained 343 yards on the ground on the way to its second regional championship win over Lakota West in two seasons. The 13-1 Firebirds lost in the regional finals for the third straight season.
“They’re all really good running backs,” the fourth-year Lakota West coach said.
“We’re not a one-man show here,” said Moeller coach Mark Elder, whose team will face Springfield in the state semifinals for the second straight year.
The Crusaders punted just twice while holding the ball for 38:47 to Lakota West’s 25:10.
Lakota West senior quarterback Mitch Bolden was 15-of-35 for 209 yards and a touchdown and rushed 21 times for 100 yards in his final appearance for the Firebirds.
“Offensively, we did some good things,” Tom Bolden said, adding about his son, “He’s tough as nails.
Freshman quarterback Matt Ponatoski made his first career start for Moeller and was an efficient 4-of-5 for 66 yards while letting the Crusaders running game carry the load.
“Heck of a stage for a guy to make his first start, wasn’t it?” Elder said.
Lakota West wide receiver Brennan Remy, a 6-foot, 175-pound junior, was injured late in the fourth on a helmet-to-helmet hit. He lay on the field and was attended to for a few minutes and players from both teams watched, each on one knee. Eventually, Remy stood up and was helped off the field,
Moeller, the region’s top-seeded team and the No. 3 team in the final Associated Press Division I state poll, scored 10 points in a span of 18 seconds within the last two minutes of the second quarter to open up a 24-7 lead. Mitchell connected on a 36-yard field goal with1:41 left for a 17-7 Crusader lead, then came up with a short, backspun kickoff recovered by teammate Jonah Hayes at the Firebirds’ 25. Marshall made it pay off with a 23-yard run on a pitchout, setting up his 7-yard touchdown run with 1:23 left in the half.
Third-seeded Lakota West, ranked second in the final state poll, got back in the game, putting together a 10-play drive capped by Mitch Bolden’s 10-yard pass over the middle to 5-11, 180-pound senior wide receiver Trent Lloyd, who was wide open in the end zone on third down with eight seconds left before halftime.
Moeller took a 7-0 lead on its second possession of the game on Weeder’s 2-yard run. Lakota West tied it on the next possession on Mitch Bolden’s 13-yard touchdown pass to 6-7, 217-pound sophomore tight end Luka Gilbert with 11:09 left in the second quarter.
Moeller immediately responded with a seven-play drive that included Ponatoski’s 42-yard pass down the right sideline to Marshall, who scored on a 1-yard plunge.
Marshall gained 165 yards on 16 carries before halftime.
Moeller added touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half, sandwiched around a 49-yard Mitch Bolden touchdown run. The 6-1, 185-pound Ponatoski threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to 6-4, 225-pound junior tight end Eli Jacon-Duffy. Shade, 5-7, 150-pound junior, added an 8-yard touchdown run 1:08 left in the third quarter on his only carry of the night.
Lakota West will have to settle for winning the Greater Miami Conference championship.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Tom Bolden said. “We’re there. We’re losing a lot of great guys, but we have a great group coming back. We’ll be back.”
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