John Bruce, Contributor
LONDON — Red zone efficiency and turnovers can make or break a team in the playoffs.
On Saturday, Adena was broken by their struggle in those two categories in a 42-14 postseason loss to Mechanicsburg at London’s Bowlus Field.
The Warriors (8-1) were only 2-for-5 when they reached the red zone and had two other drives stall just outside the 20-yard line. Add in three turnovers and that equals too many mistakes to beat a team as talented as Mechanicsburg (9-0).
The Indians got off to a fast start, scoring less than four minutes into the ball game. Adena moved the ball deep into Indians territory, riding senior halfback Nate Throckmorton, before an interception ended the drive. The Indians quickly went up two scores, this time on a 35-yard QB keeper by Aaron Conley, finishing off an 80-yard drive.
The Warriors put together another impressive drive, but this one would end at the Mechanicsburg 23-yard line. Only two plays later, the Indians’ Jake Hurst put the first of his many fingerprints on the game when he gashed the Warriors’ defense for a 35-yard run of his own. Hurst would seemingly take over the game on the next possession when he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and sprinted 17 yards for his second touchdown, which gave the Indians a dominating 28-0 lead at the half.
Many people would believe that it was all over but the shouting, right? Well, those folks obviously have never watched the Adena Warriors then.
Coming out of the half with a ton of energy, the Warriors drove right down the field … but once again stalled out inside the Indians 5-yard line. However, it was not all lost for the two-toned blue, as they forced a fumble which was recovered by Isaac Grey.
Two plays later, senior QB Preston Sykes hit classmate Logan Bennett on an 8-yard fade to put the Warriors on the board. Sykes ran in the two-point conversion to finish off the first scoring drive of the game for Adena.
The Warriors then forced a punt, which barely crossed the goal line, giving them the ball at their own 20. In only seven plays, Adena flew down the field, with Sykes hitting Throckmorton for a 5-yard score to cut the Indians lead to 28-14 and giving themselves some much-needed momentum.
However, two ugly turnovers would quickly put the game out of reach for the Warriors.
After forcing a three-and-out deep in Indians territory, disaster would happen in a muffed punt that Mechanicsburg recovered at Adena’s 25-yard line. Going from a chance to make it a one possession game to giving the Indians great field position was too much for the Warriors to overcome.
Hurst sprinted 25 yards on the first play after the muffed punt for his third score of the night in what appeared to be the knockout punch with nine minutes remaining.
That knockout blow would actually occur over the next 14 seconds.
Adena fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Mechanicsburg at Adena’s 10-yard line. Hurst then tallied his fourth score on the next play from scrimmage, pushing the advantage to 42-14 and closing out the scoring.
Throckmorton finished with 91 yards on the ground on 17 carries and also hauled in six receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. Sykes finished 10-of-20 passing for 108 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Normally able to stay on his feet, the Indians were able to bring Sykes down five times throughout the evening. Bennett reeled in three catches for 41 yards and a score.
The Warriors complete their season as SVC champions and after winning the first two playoff games in school history.
Mechanicsburg advances to the Division VI, Region 24 Championship game against Coldwater next Saturday.