By Garth Shanklin
For the second consecutive week, a Clermont County football team held a late lead in a hotly contested playoff game, and for the second consecutive week, the local team couldn’t quite hang on.
Like Goshen last week, the New Richmond Lions led their playoff opponent, the Chaminade Julienne Eagles late in the fourth quarter, only to see a touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining erase the lead and end the team’s season.
New Richmond had chances throughout the fourth period to put points on the board, but on three separate drives the Lions came up empty. That lack of execution was the difference in the game, according to head coach Patrick Burke.
“We were just sloppy in the red zone,” Burke said. “We got down in the red zone, we had an interception, we had a sack and in the fourth quarter with close to four, five minutes left we go for a field goal, have a bad snap and turn it over on downs. That’s what it amounted to, inefficiency in the red zone.”
Burke added the Lions usually were able to take advantage of those red zone chances, but not against the Eagles.
“We’ve been very efficient in the red zone all season long,” Burke said. “Generally when we get in the red zone from the 20 in, we’re very good. Friday night, a couple things didn’t go our way and we didn’t get points on the board. When you’re playing in the second round of the playoffs against a really good team, you can’t have those little mistakes.”
After one quarter, it appeared the Lions would be in more trouble than they were. The team trailed 14-0 thanks to a pair of touchdown passes, the first of which was a 15-yarder from Ryan Peltier to Dominic Wilcox with 3:43 left in the quarter.
Later in the period, Peltier connected with Colin Downing for a 14-yarder that put the Eagles ahead by two scores after one period.
The Lions roared back in the second quarter. Josh Anderson scored on a two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead in half with 7:55 left in the first half. The Eagles answered with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Peltier to Wilcox, putting Chaminade Julienne on top 20-7 after a missed extra point.
Less than three minutes later, Anderson found the end zone again, scoring from two-yards out for a 20-14 score. With 24 seconds left in the half, Anderson hit Chandler Kinhalt for a six-yard touchdown strike to gie the Lions a 21-20 lead at the break.
“We just settled down,” Burke said. “In the first quarter, I think we were just too excited for the game. We settled down and played New Richmond football. We got the ball in space to some of our playmakers, we made some tremendous catches and our quarterback was able to get loose on some runs and put us in some very good field position.”
The Lions’ defense held the Eagles off the scoreboard for most of the second and third quarters to get New Richmond back in the game. Burke said the team’s fundamentals on defense helped ground the Eagles’ attack.
“We were able to get back to basics on defense,” Burke said. “What they do is what our defense is built to stop. We were able to stay in our base defense. It came down to discipline and fundamentals, something we preached all year. In order to be a great defense, you have to tackle well. You have to swarm to the ball and get off blocks really well. We were able to do that.”
Neither team scored until 47 ticks remained on the clock in the fourth quarter, when Peltier scored on a six-yard touchdown run. The conversion attempt failed, giving New Richmond the ball with a five-point deficit.
The Lions were promptly intercepted on the first play of the next drive, ending the team’s season. The pick was Anderson’s second of the game, but that didn’t stop Burke from praising the play of his junior quarterback.
“He had a great performance,” Burke said. “He rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Gelter rushed for 87 yards…our running game was going. When he was throwing the ball, I felt like he was efficient in the passing game as well. He had some turnovers, but his performance as a whole outweighed those two.”
Kinhalt led the Lions in receiving with 90 yards and a score on seven receptions. Jessup Durbin hauled in three passes for 74 yards.
Burke said he told the team after the game to not let the result of this game determine their individual future.
“Failure doesn’t determine your success in life, character does,” Burke said. “Failures in life and in sport really show you what type of person you are. They handled the loss well, obviously our seniors were upset but they’ll be better for it. All those guys are high-character guys and they’re going to be successful in life. I told them I was proud of them, I loved them and we had a heck of a ride this year.”
With the season now officially at an end, Burke praised the team’s senior class, which finished with several on-field accomplishments.
“These seniors were a special bunch,” Burke said. “They’ve won four SBAAC titles, made the playoffs three years in a row and the second round two years in a row. They’ve meant the world to this program. They are what has started getting this program to the next level. Friday night I feel like we were close to advancing to that level, making the third round of the playoffs and making some noise in a regional championship game. They’ve been outstanding, they’re an exceptional group of young men. The work ethic of those guys and the rest of my team even is second to none. They work harder than any program I’ve ever been around.”
Burke also credited the New Richmond community for the support shown during the Lions’ playoff run, with several fans braving the cold to make the hour-long drive up I-275 for the game.
“Our community support and the support throughout the school is unmatched,” Burke said. “We travel well. We have people that come to every game and support us even though they don’t have a child in the program. It’s amazing, and I”m blessed to be at a school like this. I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot or a better situation.”