In another classic state championship finish, Bishop Hartley beats Steubenville on a last-second field goal

SECOND PLACE — Members of the Steubenville football team accept the second place trophy after falling to Bishop Hartley, 24-21, in the Division IV state championship game at Ohio Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University. (Michael D. McElwain)

COLUMBUS — One missed field goal led to a good one and Bishop Hartley broke Steubenville’s hearts for the second year in a row.

Mateo Agriesti, playing his first year of football, split the uprights from 31 yards away as time expired Friday, giving the Hawks a thrilling 24-21 victory over Big Red in the Division IV state championship game inside Ohio Stadium.

The win gives Hartley, which clipped Steubenville 31-28 in 2015, back-to-back state titles for the first time in school history. The Hawks, who finished at 13-2, now have won four state crowns. Big Red, which is now 3-5 in championship battles, also finished its stellar season at 13-2.

“We were good enough to win this game and we played well enough to win this game,” said an obviously dejected Reno Saccoccia following the game played before an announced crowd of 8,636. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win the game and that’s the bottom line. These kids did everything within their power to win that game.”

After overcoming a 14-point deficit, Big Red appeared poised to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Following a short punt, Steubenville took over at the Hartley 49 with 3:48 left to play.

Runs by Johnny Agresta and Javon Davis moved the ball to the 31. Gains of four by Agresta and two by Jalen McGhee were sandwiched around an incompletion. On fourth and three from the 24, Saccoccia elected to try a field goal.

Unfortunately, something went awry and the ball popped straight into the air. Hartley’s Cody Kirkbride caught the pigskin and proceeded to take it 59 yards to Big Red’s 23. Three plays later, Agriesti nailed his game-winner.

“We felt if we didn’t make it, we’d go into overtime,” Saccoccia stated when explaining his decision. “Had we gone for it on fourth and three and failed, we still felt like we would be heading into overtime. Our field goal was just not successful.

“I’m not looking to blame anyone. We just didn’t make it. We’ll be OK. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll get back to normal.”

As Hartley coach Brad Burchfield pointed out, Friday’s rematch was “everything a state championship game should be.”

“Both teams played really hard,” he stated. “It was not perfect, but I think that’s what happens when you play a team like Steubenville that’s really, really good.”

The Hawks struck first, going 98 yards on their second possession. Senior tailback Marquette Dixon accounted for 56 of the yards and the touchdown came on a 38-yard burst by Nick Onega. Hartley did catch a break on the march after quarterback Jake Rube was dropped for a 12-yard loss but Big Red drew a flag for a personal foul.

Big Red tied it at the 11:22 mark of the second quarter on a strong nine-yard by McGhee. He drive started after Agresta pounced on a Ruby fumble. The march covered 41 yards.

On Hartley’s next possession, Steubenville’s defense delivered a three and out and the offense took control at its own 30. On the first snap, Davis hit Alec Taylor for 14 yards, Taylor, unfortunately, lost control of the pigskin, Hartley recovering.

The defense held its ground, however, and put the Hawks in a fourth and long from the Big Red 32. Ruby dropped back and found Jaden Manley running free in the Steubenville secondary. Mateo Agriesti’s conversion kick made it 14-7.

Hartley extended its lead to 21-7 with 5:32 remaining in the half when Dixon went up the middle and raced untouched to the end zone from 44 yards away. Big Red was hit with its third personal foul penalty of the half on the drive, which began near midfield. Hartley got the good field possession after a bad Big Red snap on third down cost Steubenville 21 yards.

Undaunted, Big Red scored with five seconds left in the half on a two-yard run by Agresta. The junior, seeing his first significant playing time at quarterback since the playoffs began, appeared to have been stopped short on the fourth and two but kept moving his legs and got a little help from his offensive friends to find the end zone. Austen Duggan’s kick made it 21-14.

Steubenville missed a golden opportunity on its possession before Agresta’s touchdown. Big Red moved from its own 28 to the Hartley 25. A Davis pass fell incomplete and the drive stalled.

In the first half, each team ran 30 plays, Hartley collecting 206 yards and Big Red 126. Steubenville was hampered by two bad snaps, three personal fouls, the missed scoring opportunity and the fumble.

Big Red missed another chance at the start of the third quarter, traveling from the Hartley 46 to the eight. Four straight runs by McGhee, however, failed to produce a first down and the Hawks took over.

Big Red’s defense appeared to have stopped the Hawks but Hartley then stunned Steubenville on a fourth down with a direct snap to Onega, who motored 52 yards for a first down. Taylor intercepted Ruby three plays later but then fumbled, giving Hartley a first down at the Big Red 14. Two snaps following, Dixon fumbled, Kwadre Williams recovering.

Big Red did cash in on its next opportunity, which began with 9:41 left to play. Taking over at its own 35, following a nice stand by the defense, Steubenville marched 65 yards for the tying touchdown. It came on a 21-yard Davis to Charles Reeves pass.  Big Red overcame a holding call on the drive, which nullified a nice gainer by Agresta.

“I asked our team to pour its blood, guts, hearts and souls into this game and told our guys if they did, they would be victorious,” Saccoccia stressed. “If they would have had the same effort from their coach that I asked them to give, we would have been victorious.

“I want to thank our players for all they’ve done for the school, their families and our community. The way they played tonight showed their heart, guts, determination and pride.”

Dixon, who ran for 125 yards in the first half, finished with 178. As a team, Hartley had just 112 rushing yards during the final 24 minutes.

“We played our worst half of football in the first half but we were still in the game,” Saccoccia said. “We played good defense but we had some penalties and did a lot of things to hurt ourselves.

“We did more great things tonight than we did bad things. After a loss, however, you tend to remember the bad things. We’re competitors and we have to accept we got beat. We really wanted to just be the better team from 3-6 p.m.”

McGhee, who ran for 122 yards on 20 carries and finished with eight tackles as a linebacker, said the touchdown before half “got everyone pumped up.”

“We went into the locker pumped up,” he said. “Everyone was focused on stopping their offense in the second half, getting the ball back and scoring.”

Davis completed eight of 19 passes for 85 yards. Reeves finished his Big Red career with three catches.

“This game had a little bit of everything,” Burchfield commented. “I’m a believer that you win with your seniors. You’re going to be as good as your seniors are going to be. That’s every year.

“Steubenville is a great football team. They made some great plays in both the running and passing games. They have unbelievable balance.”

Hartley 24, Steubenville 21

Hartley      7      14     0    3    – 24

Big Red      0      14     0    7    – 21

H: Onega 38 run (Agriesti kick)

BR: McGhee 9 run (Duggan kick)

H: Manley 32 pass from Ruby (Agriesti kick)

H: Dixon 44 run (Agriesti kick)

BR: Agresta 2 run (Duggan kick)

BR: Reeves 21 pass from Davis (Duggan kick)

H: Agriesti 31 yard field goal

RUSHING:  Big Red 37-160-2 (McGhee 20-122-1; Agresta 8-34-1; Davis 3-26; Zimish 2-6; J. Petteway 2-4 Team 2-(-32)); Hartley 46-285-2 (Dixon 31-178-1; Onega 5-107-1; Cole 1-12; Culver 3-5; Manley 1-3; Cone 1-2; Ruby 4-(-22)).

PASSING:  Big Red 8-19-85-1 (all by Davis); Hartley 3-8-37-1-1 (all by Ruby).

RECEIVING:  Big Red 8-85-1 (Reeves 3-60-1; Taylor 2-26; Zimish 1-8; P. Petteway 1-(-3); J. Petteway 1-(-6)); Hartley 3-37-1 (Manley 1-32-1; Onega 1-4; Culver 1-1).

FIRST DOWNS:  Big Red 14; Hartley 11.

PENALTIES-YARDS:  Big Red 5-60; Hartley 8-73.

PUNTS:  Big Red 4-42; Hartley 4-27.

FUMBLES-LOST:  Big Red 2-2; Hartley 3-2.