COLUMBUS, Ohio - The storybook season continued for the Loveland Tigers on Friday night as they overcame all odds once again and rallied to a dramatic 38-35 double overtime win over the Zanesville Blue Devils in an Ohio Division II state semifinal contest at Columbus DeSales High School.
Loveland advances (14-0) to the state championship game next Friday night versus Cleveland Glenville (13-1) at 7 p.m. at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. Glenville beat Medina Highland, 41-13.
VIDEO: See game highlights in the player at top.
Trailing 28-20 with under two minutes to go, sophomore quarterback Drew Plitt led Loveland on a 58-yard scoring derive capped by Giavanni Ricci’s 36-yard touchdown catch deep down the sideline with less than 18 seconds left. Plitt then plunged in the end zone from two yards out to successfully convert the two-point conversion and send the game to overtime.
Zanesville (13-1) got on the scoreboard first in the extra period on Jamie Gladden's 5-yard TD run. The Tigers answered with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by freshman running back Luke Waddell to force a second overtime.
Loveland got the ball first but sputtered. Head coach Fred Cranford then opted to kick a field goal and Evan Burig converted with a 29-yarder to give the Tigers a three-point advantage. It was redemption for Burig, who missed an extra point earlier in the game. The junior made 76 of his 79 PAT attempts on the season.
The Blue Devils could’ve won the game with a touchdown and went right for the end zone on the first play. Quarterback Thomas Wibbeler lofted a pass down the sideline to Dar Stanford, who beat his defender deep. However, he was ruled out on a close call after the officials determined he landed on the line in the side of the end zone.
After two more incompletions, Zanesville attempted to tie the game with a 37-yard field goal. Logan Graham’s kick came up about a foot short of the crossbars and the game was over.
Senior running back Gunner Gambill paced the Loveland rushing attack with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Waddell added 68 yards and a score on 20 carries. Plitt completed 6-of-11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Senior linebacker Mike Weber had two sacks in the win.
Zanesville finished with a 373-341 edge in total yards of offense and a plus three turnover advantage, but still could not hand the Tigers their first loss of the year.