Hurricane hold on to beat Panthers, 24-21


It was a renewal of a long-time rivalry between teams who were twice in the same league (the old South Central Ohio League and the 21st century SCOL) when the Hurricane of Wilmington High School made the trip to Miami Trace High School to take on the Panthers in Week 2 of the 2023 high school football season.

On a warm, humid night, old acquaintances were again on display in this back and forth, barn-burner of a game.

In the end, it was a field goals’ difference as Wilmington returned to Clinton County with a 24-21 victory.

Wilmington, now 2-0 on the season, will host Mount Healthy next week.

Miami Trace goes to 1-1 and will host Logan Elm next Friday.

“We have a young team and we know that,” Miami Trace head coach Jerry Williams said. “We’re very talented and we understand that. But, we’ve got to use that talent and our momentum to execute and we didn’t.

“Our inexperience showed tonight,” Williams said. “Those are things that we have to overcome. We have to fix those (moving forward) and we will do that.

“Wilmington played a good football game,” Williams said. “I’m not going to take anything away from them whatsoever. This is a game we could have won and a game we should have won. We just didn’t get it done.

“We made mental mistakes that hurt us, more than anything,” Williams said. “That’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Miami Trace had the first possession of the game, but the Panthers turned the ball over on a fumble after a completed pass, giving the Hurricane the ball at the Miami Trace 37-yard line.

Wilmington scored on a 15-yard run, but that play was negated by a holding call on the Hurricane.

Wilmington soon struck the end zone on an 11-yard pass play from Aiden Price to Michael Brown Jr. The extra-point kick by Jon Custis gave the Hurricane a 7-0 lead at the 6:48 mark of the first quarter.

On their next possession, Miami Trace relied quite a bit on Asher LeBeau to carry the load.

This series culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run by Miami Trace’s Evan Colegrove and with the kick by Ian Mavis, the game was tied with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, on Wilmington’s third possession, it was once again Price to Brown Jr. for the score, this time covering 24 yards. Custis’ boot gave The ‘Cane a 14-7 lead with 4:51 until the half.

Miami Trace soon responded.

Colegrove returned the kickoff 45 yards and that helped set the Panthers up to tie the game on a 1-yard plunge by Julian Baker. Mavis’ kick was true with 2:32 remaining.

In no way to be outdone, Eli Stewart put Wilmington in fine shape with a 76-yard kick return, from the goal line to the Miami Trace 24-yard line.

In what was a terrific show of defensive fortitude, the Panthers bent, but did not yield a score.

One Wilmington pass attempt into the end zone was batted away by Miami Trace’s Jake Manbevers.

Wilmington still moved the ball down to the Miami Trace 1-yard line with 26 seconds to go in the half.

Wilmington utilized their time outs, but the resistance of the Panthers kept the visitors out of the end zone and the teams went to their respective locker rooms with the game tied at 14.

At the half, Wilmington had amassed 155 yards of offense to 146 for the Panthers, denoting the evenly-matched nature of the contest.

Wilmington got the ball to start the second half.

A personal foul penalty set the Hurricane up at its own 10-yard line.

With a few quick passes in the flat, Wilmington moved up field.

Both teams had two penalties during this lengthy series.

Stalling at the 15 of Miami Trace, Custis came on and connected for a 32-yard field goal at the 6:31 mark of the third quarter. That would prove to make all the difference in the final outcome.

Miami Trace kept grinding away, starting this time at their own 33-yard line.

The teams exchanged penalties and Miami Trace found themselves at the Wilmington 30-yard line.

From there, Panthers’ quarterback Trey Robinette connected with Cody Gibbs for the touchdown to put the home team back in front (along with a kick by Mavis), 21-17 at the 2:07 mark of the third quarter.

Wilmington was right back in business after a long kick return by Stewart gave the ‘Cane the ball at the Panthers’ 27-yard line.

From there it wasn’t long before Caydn Denniston scored on a 1-yard run and the kick put the score at 24-21, in favor of the Hurricane. That came with 42 seconds to play in the third quarter.

That proved to be the final score of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Miami Trace moved the ball out to near midfield, but was forced to punt.

Wilmington was able to run some time off the scoreboard clock before the Panthers regained possession with 3:25 to go in the game.

However, Miami Trace soon found themselves having to punt from out of the end zone.

A nice bounce and roll gave Wilmington the ball at the Panther 46-yard line.

The Panthers’ defense intensified its efforts and forced Wilmington to punt with 2:12 remaining.

Michael Brown Jr. again made his presence felt with an interception at the Miami Trace 13-yard line.

Wilmington had the ball with 1:59 to play in the game and again, Miami Trace’s defense was up for the challenge and a quarterback sack brought on the field goal unit for the ‘Cane.

This 33-yard attempt was tipped and fell short of the cross bar.

This was now the last gasp for the Panthers, first and 10 at their own 20-yard line with 21 seconds to play.

The Panthers were unable to complete a pass in this final series, ending this closely-contested game.

“Our boys are just relentless,” Wilmington head coach Ryan Evans said. “They never stop. We have an underdog mentality, we always have. We came in here as an underdog and that’s just the mindset that our young men have.

“They finished the game and that’s big for me,” Evans said.

“We have Mount Healthy next week,” Evans said. “They’re a good football team. They have a really good quarterback and some really good receivers.

“We were in a tight ball game with them last year and we’re looking forward to it being another one,” Evans said.

Wilmington lost at Mount Healthy last season, 13-10.

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