Trevor Arnett, Contributor
MINFORD — History has a way of repeating itself.
Piketon’s last playoff appearance occurred in 2012, when the Redstreaks traveled to Minford, a game that the underdog ‘Streaks would go on to win 49-27.
Saturday night had to be deja vu for the Piketon faithful as the Redstreaks again traveled to Minford and came away with an upset victory, this time in a 53-51 shootout.
Asked for his thoughts after the game, Piketon coach Tyler Gullion said, “I have no idea. That was crazy. We just never gave up and we kept fighting. We stuck together as a team and we didn’t quit, even when we got down.”
Speaking of Gullions, coach’s son and quarterback Levi Gullion turned in a performance for the ages. The junior was 28-for-38 passing for 418 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and he also ran for 187 yards and five additional scores. If you’re counting at home, that’s 605 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns. Gullion also delivered the eventual knockout blow with a 75-yard touchdown run with under three minutes to go in regulation.
“My mentality was no one is taking me down,” Levi said. “I was going to take that to the house. I wasn’t going to get tackled. I’m going all the way.”
Things got off to a scary start for Minford as star quarterback Elijah Vogelsong went down with a knee injury on the Falcons’ first drive. He was clearly in a lot of pain and was carried from the field. With their signal-caller sidelined, the Falcons still managed to draw first blood when freshman running back Jeffrey Pica ran in from 12 yards giving the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
It took Piketon three drives to get the offense going, but then Gullion started to find his footing. The ‘Streaks drove 80 yards, culminating in a 32-yard pass by Gullion to Johnny Burton to force a 7-7 tie.
Minford continued to use strong running by Pica on its next drive, ending with the running back scoring from 18 yards out to put the Falcons ahed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The offense picked up in the second frame. Gullion would get the Redstreaks back on the board with his first rushing touchdown of the game, a three-yard keeper that tied the game at 14.
Minford then got a boost midway through as Vogelsong re-entered the game with a heavily taped brace on his injured knee. But with their quarterback hampered, the Falcons continued to lean on Jeffrey Pica. He found the end zone for a third time in the first half on a 27-yard scamper, giving the Falcons a 21-14 lead.
Playing through the injury, Vogelsong showed his grit. On the ensuing Piketon drive, the senior sniffed out a Redstreak screen, picked off the pass and wove 68 yards for the score. The pick-six stretched Minford’s lead to 28-14, and the momentum was firmly with the Falcons.
On its next drive, Minford again rode Pica to paydirt. This time, the freshman back struck from 34 yards out. The point after attempt failed, and the Falcons took a 34-14 lead.
Piketon, with its back against the wall, would punch in one more score before the end of the half as Gullion picked up his second rushing touchdown of the night. Piketon’s extra point failed and the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with Minford leading 34-20.
The fireworks didn’t slow in the last two quarters.
On the first drive, Minford safety Matthew Risner intercepted Gullion’s first pass of the drive. Two plays later, the Falcons returned the ball to Piketon with a turnover of their own on a fumble. Piketon capitalized on its second chance with Gullion running for his third touchdown of the night, from a yard out, cutting the Minford lead to 34-26.
After a big return from Drew Skaggs that ended in a facemask and then a personal foul call on the Redstreaks, Minford took over with fantastic field position, on Piketon’s 10-yard line. But the ‘Streaks defense would hold Minford to a field goal attempt when Minford’s Adam Crank nailed a 31-yarder, giving the Falcons a 37-26 edge.
Piketon started to find momentum on the next drive with Gullion finding junior Cameron Loar on a 63-yard bomb, cutting the Minford lead to 37-32, midway through the third.
Vogelsong stepped up again for the Falcons, picking off Gullion, and returning it all the way to Piketon’s 15. The quarterback capitalized on the turnover a few plays later, running it in from four yards, stretching the lead to 44-32 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was Gullion’s time to shine.
The ‘Streaks quarterback scored on the ground on a fourth and goal play from the two, cutting the lead to 44-38, and after a defensive stop, he found Loar for the second time on the night on a 38-yard bullet pass that gave the Redstreaks their first lead of the game, 45-44.
Another big defensive stand by Piketon gave the ball back to Gullion and the offense with the clock ticking under six minutes. On a huge third and five play from their own 25-yard line, Gullion delivered the knockout blow.
The junior quarterback took a shotgun snap and patiently worked to the right before busting through a seam, breaking a tackle, and racing 75 yards for the score.
Coach Gullion would elect to go for two, giving the ‘Streaks a two-possession lead. The option play on the conversion was successful, stretching the lead to nine, 53-44, with 2:45 remaining.
Minford wasn’t ready to give up, however.
Vogelsong led the Falcons down the field, culminating in the quarterback stretching for a one-yard touchdown and cutting the lead to 53-51. Minford then forced a turnover on downs with 15 seconds left, but the Falcons weren’t able to score, giving Piketon its first playoff win in eight years.
“It’s a huge momentum boost for us,” Levi Gullion said. “We haven’t won a playoff game, or been in the playoffs, since 2012. We have to get better offensively and defensively, but this team is willing to step up.”
Gullion’s 605 all-purpose yards, to go with three passing touchdowns and five rushing scores, paced the Redstreaks. Cameron Loar had eight catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns while Johnny Burton also caught eight passes for 94 yards and a score. Brody Fuller added seven catches for 73 yards.
For Minford, Elijah Vogelsong overcame the early injury to go 7-for-13 passing for 102 yards. He also ran for 48 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Defensively, Vogelsong intercepted two passes, returning one for a 68-yard score. Freshman Jeffrey Pica was the workhorse for the Falcons, carrying 21 times for 185 yards and four touchdowns. Matthew Risner also had 56 all-purpose yards and an interception.
Piketon will now move on to the second round of the postseason where it will travel to Canal Winchester to take on Harvest Prep on Oct. 17. The Warriors of Harvest Prep finished the season at 5-1, winning four straight to close the regular season.
The Redstreaks will be in for a daunting test, as last season Harvest Prep was a Division VII playoff participant and reached the state semifinals.
The game will be at Harvest Prep with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.