STOW - The Brookfield Warriors took their best shots, and the Norwayne Bobcats didn't flinch.
Warriors coach Randy Clark said during the week that he would do whatever was needed to pressure Bobcats quarterback Joe Dreher, and he did exactly that by dialing up plenty of blitzes. Most of them were picked up by the Bobcats offensive line, which allowed Dreher time to do plenty of damage.
The junior completed 26-of-35 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns as the Bobcats won the Division IV, Region 13 final with a 49-28 win Friday at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.
The Bobcats scored on six straight possessions after being stopped on downs on their first two series. By then Norwayne had what turned out to be an insurmountable 42-7 lead.
"We weren't getting to him, and he was getting rid of the ball," Clark said. "We got to him the first couple of series, but he started throwing some quicker stuff up to their bigger receivers, and our man coverage broke down. We ran the same defense in the second half, and we got to him. We came with our game plan. We're going to live with it or die with it."
The Warriors ended the season with a 12-1 record. The Bobcats (13-0) advance to play St. Clairsville in a state semifinal.
The Warriors got off to a bad start when they weren't able to handle a squib kick. Logan Studer recovered for the Bobcats at the Warriors' 36.
Brookfield's defense came up big and forced a stop on downs at their 28. The Warriors stopped the Bobcats again on downs on their next series, this time at the Brookfield 21.
The flow of play changed the next time the Bobcats had possession. Jon Zimmerly turned the left corner and scored on a 37-yard run to complete a two-play, 42-yard drive. Kolin Moore kicked the first of seven point-after kicks.
It was all Norwayne the rest of the first half. They added four touchdowns in the second quarter on touchdown passes of 25 and 70 yards to Kaleb Harris, 26 yards to Richie Smith and 2 yards to Brady Berger on the final play of the half to give the Bobcats a 35-7 lead.
The Warriors' lone score in the half came on a 16-yard run by Ryan Mosora.
Norwayne's receivers had no trouble getting open short and deep, and they tacked on countless yards after each reception. Berger had 140 yards on nine receptions. Mitch Knieriem had 103 yards on five catches, and Harris had 109 yards on four receptions.
"That was definitely the fastest team we've gone against, including their team from last year," Warriors linebacker Derek Sulick said of the defending Division IV state champion.
The Warriors needed a defensive stop on the first possession of the third quarter, but they couldn't get it. The Bobcats drove 58 yards on nine plays to score on a 19-yard pass from Dreher to Smith.
Brookfield could have easily given up at that point, but it was determined to make a run. Quarterback Jeremy Quinlan threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Collin Harkulich, who had five receptions for 121 yards. The two hooked up again on a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut Norwayne's lead to 42-21 at the 1:23 mark of the third quarter.
Defensively, the Warriors began to get more pressure on Dreher. The Bobcats had to punt on two consecutive possessions.
"We didn't think we were going to lose for a second," Sulick said. "The whole time we had the mentality that we were going to win."
The Bobcats all but sealed the win when offensive lineman Zack Weinman recovered a fumble by Berger in Brookfield's end zone. The play started at the Warriors' 1.
Quinlan threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to his brother Jimmy to conclude the scoring. Jimmy jumped high to pull the ball away from the hands of two defenders in the back of the end zone.
Clark was proud of what the Warriors were able to accomplish this season.
"It's been a heck of a ride all year," Clark said. "We had 12 wins, the most in school history. Making it to the regional final and bringing home some hardware was special for Brookfield, the community and the school."