After his team headed to the locker room at the end of a hard-fought win over Harrison, Edgewood High School football coach Scott Clemmons knelt down in the corner of the end zone at Bill Kuntz Field to soak in the victory.
The Cougars survived a back-and-forth battle Friday night, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard run by Wade Phillips with 1:59 left before Justin Hiltbrand’s interception sealed it for a 42-35 win.
Two-time defending champion Edgewood (5-0, 2-0 Southwest Ohio Conference) remains atop the conference standings alongside unbeaten Little Miami, and the Cougars have now won eight straight regular-season games dating back to last year.
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Harrison (2-3, 1-1 SWOC) was coming off a playoff season and was Edgewood’s biggest challenger last year.
“We talked to the boys about how there are going to be games like this,” Clemmons said, choking up a little. “We talked about those December workouts when it’s cold outside and the windows are steamed up and we’re putting them through that last burnout. That’s what we’re doing it for is these games. They did a great job, and I just tip my hat off to the boys and my coaches. They stayed the course and stayed patient and just did a great job.”
Neither team ever had more than a 7-point lead in the showdown between the top two offenses in the league, and Harrison had let Phillips walk in unscathed for the last touchdown, knowing Edgewood was bound to score.
Wildcats coach Derek Rehage figured his team’s best chance was to leave enough time on the clock to answer.
Clemmons was eying the clock too, hoping Harrison would make a mistake while trying to move quickly down the field. On fourth-and-4 with 1:24 left at the Wildcats’ 29-yard line, Harrison quarterback Connor Kinnett finally broke and Hiltbrand was there to take advantage.
“When you get in a game like this, it’s just who makes a play in the fourth quarter,” Rehage said. “We’re rolling right and could probably run it for a first down and he throws the ball, but I will trust Connor’s decision any day. He’s an awesome guy, awesome football player, and they just made a play.”
Kinnett completed 18-of-28 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. He also had run in a touchdown with 6:51 left to tie the game at 35 shortly after Phillips scored on a 79-yard hook-and-ladder play for Edgewood’s first lead since early in the second quarter.
“Their offense and their quarterback, he’s dangerous,” Clemmons said. “He throws a great ball, so there was only a minute left. They used their last timeout, but he can just throw the ball so well. You just think at some point in the game, there’s got to be a mistake made. Fortunately we got it.”
Edgewood had to overcome some mistakes of its own earlier in the game, including losing two fumbles.
The second turnover, although later in the game, didn’t end up costing the Cougars, but the first one might have changed the momentum in the first half.
With the Cougars moving toward midfield, Drake Swango recovered a fumble at the 41-yard line with about five minutes left before halftime, killing what could have been the final drive. Edgewood managed a key third-down stop to hold Harrison to a field-goal try and Kyle Farfsing missed a 32-yarder wide left, but the Cougars were called for roughing the kicker, giving the Wildcats an automatic first down.
Two plays later, Kinnett found C.J. Young for a 7-yard touchdown to give Harrison a 21-14 lead with 2:56 left in the second quarter.
Edgewood managed to tie it back up going into halftime, thanks to Elijah Williams’ 33-yard touchdown run, but Harrison received the kick to start the third period and the Cougars ended up mostly playing catchup the rest of the way.
Phillips finished with 178 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries to go along with 104 yards receiving and two TDs on two catches. He also converted a fourth-and-1 from Edgewood’s 47-yard line to keep the Cougars alive on their final scoring drive before a Corbin Craft run, plus a personal foul penalty for a late hit, moved them into the red zone.
Williams added 129 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
“I just love my team,” Phillips said. “We can do so many good things. Our offensive line busted their tails the whole game. We did what we needed to do and we did what we came here to do. It’s one of the biggest games of the year, so to finish the game like that, it’s awesome.”
The Cougars will visit Ross next Friday, while the Wildcats travel to Talawanda.
E: Wade Phillips 7 run (Dustin Turner kick)
H: Connor Kinnett 1 run (Kyle Farfsing kick)
E: Phillips 25 pass from Corbin Craft (Turner kick)
H: Cam Hering 82 run (Farfsing kick)
H: C.J. Young 7 pass from Kinnett (Farfsing kick)
E: Elijah Williams 33 run (Turner kick)
H: Jace Fette 27 pass from Kinnett (Farfsing kick)
E: Williams 5 run (Turner kick)
E: Phillips 79 pass from Craft (Turner kick)
H: Kinnett 1 run (Farfsing kick)
E: Phillips 4 run (Turner kick)