John Fay passes on

John wrote the article that appeared in the Enqurier the morning following the "Miracle at Middletown" in 1999.

Panthers score two TDs in last minute

The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLETOWN — Elder's sports history is as rich as any school's in the city. But it's safe that Elder has never won a more thrilling game than Saturday's 49-42 victory over Centerville in the Division I Region 8 semifinals before a capacity crowd of 10,000-plus at Barnitz Stadium.

The Panthers built a two-touchdown lead, only to see Centerville score 28 unanswered points. All that did was set the stage for a most improbable comeback.

Elder tied it on Collin Carey's 24-yard TD pass to Aaron Brown with 44 seconds left.

The Panthers won it on Ryan Vanderpool's 40-yard interception return 32 seconds later.

Elder advances to Region 8 final next weekend against Huber Heights Wayne.

Elder was still down two touchdowns when Carey ran it in from five yards out with 2:08 left.

“Best case scenario is we get an onside kick and it goes into overtime,” Elder coach Doug Ramsey said. “We don't get the onside kick. We hold'em, go down and score and then win it on the interception return. The interception is an unbelievable thing.”

Vanderpool's interception came one play after Brown's TD.

“I saw the ball tipped,” Vanderpool said. “I caught it and headed for the end zone. I knew I was going to get there.”

It took an unbelievable comeback to put Elder in a position to win with an interception.

Elder took over on its 20 with 1:42 to go. Carey, who hit 19-of-40 passes for 382 yards, hit Brett Mezger for 19 and 22 yards on the first two plays. After two incompletions, he hit running back Kyle Koester for 14.

The next play, Carey found Brown along the right side. It was Brown's first catch of the year. He was only in the game because Joel Wainscott was hurt.

“I was in a daze,” Brown said. “I just dove for the end zone.”

That made it 42-41. A tie was not a given. Elder kicker Tom DeFranco had a rough night to that point, missing a PAT and two short field goals.

“I just said, "Make it,'” Ramsey said. “He's had a great year.”

DeFranco drilled it.

The Panthers were shut out in the second half — largely because tailback Koester was slowed by an injured ankle — until Carey's TD run.

But Elder didn't give up.

“Our kids always seem confident,” Ramsey said. “I'm not sure if it's confidence or we're not smart enough to know what we can't do.”

Centerville entered the game 11-0 and ranked No.4 in the state. Elder and Centerville had only met once before, in the 1991 playoffs. Centerville won that one 35-7.

Elder went out to a 28-14 first-half lead with Koester running and Carey passing.

But after Elder stalled early in the third quarter, the Elks roared back with big plays off the option.

Quarterback Ryan Hawk had 162 yards on 15 carries, and running back Ray Huston had 182 yards on 16 carries.

Elder seemed to take control late in the half when Carey threw a screen to Koester. Koester, who finished with 94 yards rushing and 109 in receiving, broke a tackle to get in the clear, then broke another tackle when a defender caught him at about the 20. All in all, it was 69-yard TD pass and catch.

Carey hit Wainscott for a two-pointer, and it was 28-14.

Elder controlled the third quarter but didn't get any points to show for it. The Panthers had a first-and-goal at the 8. But, with Koester out of the game with the ankle injury, the Panthers couldn't punch it in. DeFranco's 25-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar.

Then an Elder mistake allowed Centerville to get back in the game. Hawk was intercepted by Dan Bachman on the next series. But the play was cancelled by an Elder holding penalty.

On the very next play, Huston broke away for a 55-yard TD run. That made it 28-21 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

Elder's offense went nowhere.

That gave the ball back to Centerville. Huston found a hole in the middle of the line, burst through it and went 70 yards for the TD.

Just like that, it was tie game — 28-all — with 10:53 to go.

Elder got a huge break when Centerville held on a punt. That gave Elder first down at 45. The Panthers got to the 10 and stalled. DeFranco missed badly on a 27-yard attempt.

Another chance for Centerville, followed by another big play.

Hawk broke free and went 80 yards on an option run, giving the Elks a 35-28 lead with 5:41 left. Then Hawk broke another long run to set up Huston's 2-yard TD to make it 42-28.

Some of the 7,000 Elder fans took that as a sign to exit.

They missed what might have been the best two minutes and eight seconds in Elder football history.

“Just unbelievable,” Ramsey said.

Centerville ....... 7 7 7 21—42

Elder ....... 12 16 0 21—49

C — R. Hawk 1 run (Nugent kick)

E — Koester 6 run (kick failed)

E — Dattilo 2 run (pass failed)

E — Wainscott 22 pass from Carey (Koester run)

C — Huston 3 run (Nugent kick)

E — Koester 69 pass from Carey (Wainscott pass from Carey)

C — Huston 55 run (Nugent kick)

C — R. Hawk 80 run (Nugent kick)

C — Huston 2 run (Nugent kick)

E — Carey 5 run (DeFranco kick)

E — Brown 24 pass for Carey (DeFranco kick)

E — Vanderpool 40 interception return (DeFranco kick)

(Thanks to Purplemojo who posted this article back in 2010.)
Maybe this Ramsey quote provides Elder’s secret sauce, it’s not necessarily toughness or talent…. “Our kids always seem confident,” Ramsey said. “I'm not sure if it's confidence or we're not smart enough to know what we can't do.”