When they talk about the greatest players in Ohio high school football history, they'll talk about
quarterback Maty Mauk
. When they talk about the greatest games in state history, they'll talk about the time Creston Norwayne denied Mauk that last feather in his cap – an OHSAA title
In a game that featured six fourth-quarter touchdowns and three state finals records that were tied or broken, Norwayne (Creston, Ohio)
scored the game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds left to beat Kenton, 48-42, at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium before a raucous crowd of 10,329.
The game wasn't over until the last pass attempt of Mauk's high school career was intercepted at the goal line on the final play.
"That might have been the game of the year," said Norwayne head coach Joe Harbour.
Added Kenton head coach Mike Mauk, "I think you just saw the best of high school football."
It's hard to argue differently.
Coming into the game, all the attention was on Mauk, and rightfully so. Most of the crowd showed up early and lined the stadium's south end zone just to see the nation's all-time leading passer and recently-named 2011 Ohio Mr. Football warm-up. They were expecting to see something special, and they did.
Only it was Norwayne that delivered the excitement early.
Norwayne, trying to become just the second Wayne County team to win a state title since the Ohio playoffs started in 1972, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and built its advantage to 21-6 just before halftime. Only a 50-yard pass from Mauk to Kieran Fetter
on the last play of the first half kept Kenton from staring at a 15-point halftime deficit
In the second half, Norwayne wouldn't go away.
Norwayne continued to battle, and when it took a 41-28 lead with 4:21 to go in the game, a few unknowing spectators started filing out. That's when Kenton went to work.
Mauk hooked up with fellow senior Brice Fackler
for back-to-back touchdown passes of 65 and 28 yards, the second coming after a successful onside kick that gave Kenton its first lead of the game, 42-41, with 2:51 to go.
Cats had it in the bag right? Wrong.
Norwayne, led by the standout play of its own senior star – quarterback Adam Wallace
– marched down the field and delivered the knockout blow, when Wallace found receiver Kaleb Harris
for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left.
Norwayne's side of the stadium erupted. Kenton's went quiet.
"We ran our special route," Wallace said. "It was a crossing route with a post to the corner. I saw the safety go after the cross and I hit Caleb down the seam. It worked perfectly."
Perfection was what Mauk was going for. The only thing missing from his high school mantle was a state championship, and it took a historic effort by Norwayne to deny him of it.
Mauk finished the game 27-of-50 for 421 yards and five TDs, and also carried the ball 22 times for 50 yards and a TD. His five passing TDs tied a D-II finals record. Senior receiver Brice Fackler caught five passes for a D-II finals record 178 yards, and also set an all-divisions finals record with four TD catches.
Combined, the teams totaled 966 yards in offense, which is the fourth-most in Ohio finals history. The 703 combined passing yards was the most ever in a non-overtime state final, regardless of division.
Wallace had a remarkable evening as well, completing 15-of-24 passes for 282 yards and four TDs. He also ran 30 times for 140 yards and three scores.
"We go into every game thinking we have a shot," Wallace said. "You have too."
Concluded Mauk: "I know with the heart my guys have that we have a chance to score anytime we have the ball. Right up to the very last play I thought we could win."