The Thunderhawks (8-3) have still never lost a first-round playoff game — they were 1-1 in 2012 and 2014 postseason appearances. East advanced to a regional semifinal against third-seeded Elder next Friday at a neutral site that will be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
WEEK 11 FOOTBALL COVERAGE
» Slow start, fast finish as Badin opens playoffs with win
» Milford’s huge rally stuns Fairfield in playoff opener
» Nick Graham’s photo gallery from Fairfield-Milford
» Defense powers Fenwick in playoff-opening win over CJ
» Nick Graham’s photo gallery from Lakota East-Mason
» LM sinks Edgewood with fourth-quarter playoff rally
Mason, the GMC runner-up behind Colerain, finished 8-3.
“I thought we came out in the second half and played much better, especially defensively,” Thunderhawks coach Rick Haynes said. “I thought our kids adjusted well, but we’ve got to keep playing better, especially against a (Greater Catholic League) school next week. I think the key tonight was we only had one turnover, and that was late in the half.”
The two teams matched first-quarter touchdowns. Mason’s Logan Dalton scored first on a 3-yard run, while East countered with a 1-yard TD by Jack Dobrozsi. Including in that East drive was a 32-yard pass down the middle of the field from Sean Church to Evan Yablonsky.
The second period was all about time of possession as the two squads had the ball once each. Charles Sipe kicked a 21-yard field goal for the Comets, and that made it 10-7 at halftime. Church was intercepted in the end zone by Jaydon Kaufhold to finish the half.
The Thunderhawks went up 17-10 with 10 third-quarter points. Church ran 2 yards for a touchdown and Gavin Myers booted a 31-yard field goal after Adam Hundemer recovered a Mason fumble on the kickoff.
The Comets did not go quietly in the fourth period as quarterback Collin Brown led a scoring drive that knotted the game at 17-17. Brown had a big fourth-down conversion deep in East territory, and that was followed by a 7-yard touchdown scamper by Nolan McCormick.
The Thunderhawks fought back again. Church connected with Yabonsky on a critical third-down play that moved the chains, and Corey Dick contributed a 24-yard run. Myers’ 20-yard field goal with 4:02 remaining turned out to be the difference.
Dobrozsi ran 21 times for 79 yards to lead East’s ground game. Church was 7-of-10 for 92 yards through the air, and all of those receptions were made by Yablonsky.
“It’s not all me that does it. It’s the whole offense, from the line blocking to the other running backs doing their thing,” Dobrozsi said. “The defense did their job tonight, holding them to 17 points at home.”
McCormick (13 carries, 87 yards) and Dalton (13 carries, 62 yards) paced Mason on the ground.
“It was a great season overall,” Comets coach Brian Castner said. “Second place in the GMC, probably the best 10-team league in the state of Ohio. We had a group of young men that nobody gave us a chance to do what we did. These kids met every question, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“We were winning at halftime and thought we needed a score early. When you face an offense like that who churns up the time, it was difficult to come back. For the most part, they were better than we were tonight. They got us and they got us at home, which is going to sting for some time.”
Lakota East 7-0-10-3—20
M: Logan Dalton 4 run (Charles Sipe kick)
L: Jack Dobrozsi 1 run (Gavin Myers kick)
M: Sipe 21 field goal
L: Sean Church 2 run (Myers kick)
L: Myers 31 field goal
M: Nolan McCormick 7 run (Sipe kick)
L: Myers 20 field goal