By Garth Shanklin
For 47 minutes, 45 seconds in the Goshen Warriors’ regional quarterfinal match against Dayton Dunbar on Friday, Nov. 3, the Warriors were either tied or on top.
Goshen didn’t trail in the game until there were just 15 seconds left on the clock, but those 15 seconds ended up being the final 15 seconds of the Warrior season, as Dunbar rallied late for a 28-27 win.
“That’s a tough one,” Goshen head coach Ryan George said. “Those things happen. We had our chances. We made mistakes on our part coaching, we have to clean that up. The kids played their hearts out, and we still had a chance to win.”
Early on in the game, it appeared Goshen would dominate the matchup. The Warriors scored on their first drive of the game, with quarterback Kyle Proffitt connecting on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Logan Mantz to put the Warriors ahead 7-0 with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
Dunbar promptly marched into Goshen territory, only to be turned away on fourth down and six, giving the Warriors the ball at their own 20. That drive ended with a leaping catch in the end zone by Peyton Leugers, putting the Warriors on top 14-0 with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Dunbar nearly answered on the very next play, but a 68-yard rushing touchdown by Tavion Thomas, an Oklahoma commit, was wiped off the board due to a holding penalty.
Nevertheless, Dunbar moved the ball deep into Goshen territory early in the second quarter, but Goshen’s defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the ball back to the Warriors.
Dunbar muffed the ensuing punt, but recovered in time to return it for a touchdown. A personal foul call brought that score back as well.
Sebastian Abshire intercepted a poorly thrown pass in the end zone to end the drive, and seal a 14-0 lead at halftime for Goshen.
Dunbar got on the board on the first drive of the third quarter, scoring on a three-yard run by Thomas. Deonte Bailey tripped Thomas in the backfield for a loss on the two-point try, giving Goshen a 14-6 lead.
The Warriors immediately added to that margin thanks to Leugers, who returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and a 20-6 lead. Goshen had originally lined up to kick the ball for the extra point, but a penalty on Dunbar changed the Warriors’ mind, and they went for two instead. The pass to the end zone was dropped.
Dunbar connected on a touchdown pass on their next drive, and the two point try cut the Goshen lead to 20-14 with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Goshen couldn’t get anything going offensively on their next drive, but Dunbar couldn’t field the punt, and the Warriors took over at the Wolverine 35. They marched into the end zone, scoring on a three-yard run by Adam Slusher to take a 27-14 lead with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
At this point, Dunber suddenly began to have trouble holding onto the ball. The next drive ended with a fumble, recovered by Goshen. The Warriors had to punt, and Dunbar scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 27-20 with 9:51 remaining.
Goshen went for it on fourth down and short from the Dunbar 33, but Proffitt’s pass was just overthrown. Dunber drove to the Goshen six, only to be intercepted in the end zone by Leugers. Goshen drove downfield and punted, pinning Dunbar at the nine yardline with 2:35 left.
One minute later, Mantz picked off a pass, giving Goshen the ball back with 1:33 remaining. Goshen faked a punt on fourth down, but came up short. Dunbar took over at their own 43, and scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left. The two-point try by Thomas was good, and Goshen found themselves trailing 28-27.
They had one more shot. The kickoff only went to the Goshen 42, and Proffitt found a receiver across midfield for a nice gain. A helmet-to-helmet hit on Dunbar moved the ball to the Wolverine 29 with six seconds left. With the clock already stopped, Goshen called their final timeout, then brought on their kicker, who missed the try wide left, ending the game.
Proffitt only completed 10 passes, but tallied 173 yards and two touchdowns. Slusher led the Warriors with 80 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Mantz had three receptions for 58 yards and a score. Leugers added two for 33, Abshire two for 25 and Brandon Harrison caught two for 29. Josh Ulrey snagged one pass for 28 yards.
As a team, Goshen forced four turnovers, something George said the team has been able to do for most of the season.
“A big part of the year, we’ve done that,” George said. “We got a little sloppy during the Batavia game and the New Richmond game, but we’ve done that. That’s just part of it.”
Goshen played this game without Jimmy Strunk, who injured his knee and was out for the team’s final three games of the season. George said the team needed other players to fill his role on the team.
“We had guys that had to step up,” George said. “He had surgery Wednesday [Nov. 1] and I hate that for him, he played hard for us all year. We had other guys who had to come in and step up.”
With the season officially at an end, George praised the team’s 13 seniors, including Strunk, Proffitt, Leugers, Bailey, and Abshire for the work they put in this season.
“They did a great job,” George said. “They came in and bought into what we were doing. They set the standard higher for what we are trying to do. The younger guys got a look at that, and we have to keep building on it.”
George also commented on the fan support the Warriors received throughout the season.
“it was tremendous,” George said. “We had some tremendous support all year. I’m proud of that and proud of the community, they’ve been behind us.”