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Ohio high school football state semifinal: Moeller 13, Hilliard Davidson 11

DAYTON, Ohio – Fueled by an impressive second-half defensive effort, Moeller defeated Hilliard Davidson, 13-11, on Saturday night at Welcome Stadium to advance to its second consecutive Division I state championship game.

After allowing 168 yards in the first half, the Crusaders shut out the Wildcats on only 61 yards in the second half.

“Tonight our defense stood up,” Moeller head coach John Rodenberg said. “We needed the defense. That was a good football team.”

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Moeller, the defending Division I state champ, will look to win its ninth state title against the Mentor Cardinals (13-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Canton Fawcett Stadium. Mentor defeated Lakewood St. Edward 41-38 on Saturday night.

Mentor lost in the state semifinals last year and in the finals in 2006 and ’07. It has never won the state title.

RELATED: Read about Mentor’s win over St. Edward

Moeller (13-1) scored first when quarterback Gus Ragland connected with Chase Pankey on a 41-yard touchdown pass, giving the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead.

Hilliard Davidson (13-1)  answered on the following possession. The Wildcats put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped up by a D.D. Clark 5-yard touchdown run. Hilliard Davidson wasn’t content with just a tie, deciding to go for the 2-point conversion early in the game. Alex Backenstone found the end zone on the conversion attempt, giving the Wildcats an 8-7 lead.

Hilliard Davidson added to the lead when Robert LeFevre connected on a 44-yard field goal, making the score 11-7 with 2:55 remaining in the second quarter.

Moeller would end the first half with a field goal of its own. Matthew Coghlin’s 23-yard field goal made the score 11-10 at halftime.

Moeller outgained Hilliard Davidson 177-168 in the first half. The Wildcats had possession of the ball for 15:57, almost doubling the time of possession for the Crusaders.

The only scoring of the second half came on Coghlin’s 27-yard field goal.

“To be able to know that you can get a field goal like that, it really helps in the play calling,” Rodenberg said. “Because you know that you don’t have to take any unnecessary shots.”

After trading defensive blows in the fourth quarter, Davidson’s final possession came with only two seconds remaining in the game. Their attempt at a miracle play came up short, wrapping up the victory for Moeller.

“They’re a heck of a football team,” Rodenberg added. “I don’t know if they’ve gotten enough credit for how good of a team they are.”

Moeller outgained Davidson 318-229 on the night. Crusaders’ running back Jack Gruber ran for 134 yards on 25 carries.

Davidson’s Clark ran for 138 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries, while adding one reception for 27 yards in the loss.

This season marked the sixth consecutive playoff appearance for the Wildcats. They won the Division I state championship in 2006 and 2009.

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