ZANESVILLE - Catholic Central gave top-seeded Trimble all it could handle in Saturday's Division VII, Region 25 semifinal at John D. Sulsberger Stadium.
In the end, however, the Crusaders came up just five points short.
The Tomcats, who had allowed just 33 points coming into the contest, escaped with a 27-22 victory thanks to a fumble recovery inside their own territory with just a little more than a minute to play.
PICK — Catholic Central’s Stone Romano (42) congratulates Tony Barber after Barber intercepted a pass during Saturday’s Division VII, Region 25 semifinal with Glouster Trimble in Zanesville.
With the win, Trimble, 12-0, moves into this week's regional title game opposite second-seeded Shadyside. Central drops the curtain at 9-3.
"To me, our kids tonight displayed everything we say we are: courage, character, heart and spirit," Central coach Steve Daley said following the heart-breaking loss. "They played for four quarters with it. I hate to see it end like this tonight. They left it all here, no doubt about it."
Following a one-yard touchdown run by Trimble quarterback Konnor Standley early in the fourth quarter, Central found itself trailing 27-15. Following a stop by its defense, CCHS climbed right back into the game.
Trimble 27, Catholic Central 22
Trimble 7 7 7 6 - 27
Catholic Central 7 0 8 7 - 22
C: Jones 68 run, (McNamara kick)
T: Koons 2 run (Stevens kick)
T: Jenkins 8 run (Stevens kick)
T: Standley 1 run (Stevens kick)
C: Jones 48 pass from Colabella (Fletcher pass from Murphy)
T: Standley 1 run (run fail)
C: Fletcher 70 pass from Colabella (McNamara kick)
RUSHING: Central 21-95-1 (Colabella 5-(-17); Jones 7-92-1; Fletcher 3-4; Romano 5-14; Murphy 1-4; Trimble 58-298-4 (Standley 29-148-2; Jenkins 12-83-1; Koons 16-68-1; Smathers 1-(-1).
PASSING: Central 9-20-231-2-1 (all by Colabella); Trimble 11-20-95-0-2 (Standley 11-19-95-0-1; Word 0-1-0-1).
RECEIVING: Central (Jones 3-63; Porreca 2-18; Fletcher 2-131; DiCarlantonio 2-18); Trimble (Downs 8-67; Bragg 1-7; Simerly 1-6; Jenkins 1-15).
FIRST DOWNS: Central 9, Trimble 20.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Central 4-40; Trimble 7-65
PUNTS: Central 5-36; Trimble 3-40.
FUMBLES-LOST: Central 3-2; Trimble 0-0.
Starting at their own 18, the Crusaders needed just two snaps to score. Brenton Colabella hit Khalil Jones on the first play. Then, Colabella tossed one down the sideline to Ryan Fletcher. The aerial was tipped by a Trimble defense and fell into Fletcher's hands. The pass and run covered 70 yards. John Paul McNamara's kick pulled Central two within five. The touchdown came with a little more than three minutes left to play.
The defense responded again, forcing Trimble's high-powered offense into a three and out (Jones tipped away a Standley pass on third and long). The Crusaders had one last chance, starting at their own 37.
A pass interference call against the Tomcats moved the ball to Trimble's 47. Colabella hit Aleks Porreca for nine yards. On third and one, the senior quarterback scrambled for an apparent first down. Unfortunately, he lost control of the pigskin and the Tomcats recovered to seal the deal.
""I think they (Trimble) thought the game was over with five minutes left," Daley stated. "Our kids never quit and they didn't give up. We still had a chance at the end. They are just a great group of kids."
Central actually stuck first, Jones sprinting 68 yards on the game's opening possession. McNamara's conversion kick gave the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead.
Trimble responded, with a 68-yard march, Jacob Koons scoring on a two-yard plunge.
Trimble took the lead for good at the 6:12 mark of second quarter, going 39 yards in eight plays. Justice Jenkins scored from eight yards out. The positive field possession came after the Tomcat defense forced Central to punt from its own end zone.
The Tomcats had four first half possessions inside CCHS territory, coming away with just one touchdown, a missed field goal and two interceptions (Tony Barber and Fletcher both recording picks for the Crusaders). On the drive leading to the missed FG, Barber made two outstanding plays against Austin Downs, Trimble's leading receiver, in the end zone, batting away two down Standley passes.
"Our defense played great," Daley added. "They held us in there as long as they could. They fought and scratched the whole night. We finally started to make some connections on offense and were able to make a couple of big plays. It's just unfortunate that we ran out of time there at the end."
Trimble opened the second half by marching 74 yards for a score. Standley snuck in from a yard out. Key plays on the drive were a 22-yard sprint by Standley and a 32-stripe gallop by Jenkins.
Central came right back, moving 65 yards in just two plays. Following a pass interference call on Trimble, Colabella threw a perfect ball to a streaking Jones down the sideline. The pass and catch covered 48 yards. Chris Murphy, the Central holder on conversion tries, then hit Fletcher for the two-point conversion.
When discussing his defense's ability to make two crucial stops late in the game, Daley simply said it was his team "just digging down."
"We take pride in conditioning, that came through tonight," he added. "That's something we worked on all-season long. We never stopped and that's where that effort pays off."
Colabella concluded his record-setting Central career by throwing for 231 yards and a pair of scores. He ended his senior year with 2,019 passing stripes. Fletcher grabbed two passes for 131 and Jones had three catches for 63.
Jones also ran for 92 yards on just seven trips.
Central's senior class earned trips to the playoffs the last two seasons, compiling a 15-8 record.
"They're a special a group and I hate to see it end this way," Daley said of his senior class. "Their goal was to get to the state championship game and they gave that kind of effort tonight. We just came up short.
"They pushed each other to make each other better. They wanted to go out as winners. There is no doubt they contributed to getting us back on the map."
Trimble compiled 298 yards on the ground. Standley finished with 148 (126 and two touchdowns coming in the second half). Jenkins added 83 and Koons 68.