By Cort Reynolds
Ada Herald writer
DELPHOS - Do-it-all Ada senior Matt Wilcox returned an interception 100 yards to paydirt late in the fourth period to preserve a 27-22 victory by the visiting Bulldogs over host Delphos Jefferson in first round Div. VI football playoff action Friday night at Stadium Park.
It was Ada's second nailbiting, five-point win in three weeks at Delphos Jeff. They defeated the Wildcats 25-20 in week nine to earn a share of the Northwest Conference crown, then repeated the road win in round one of the post-season.
The Bulldogs improved to 8-3 with their seventh consecutive first round playoff victory. Jefferson ended its campaign at 9-2, with both losses coming at the hands of Ada.
The Bulldogs advance to the region 20 quarterfinals Friday, November 15 against Crestview (9-2) at a site TBA.
The sixth-seeded Knights beat third seed LCC (8-3) in a 48-35 first round shootout at Lima Friday, as both home teams/higher seeds lost. Crestview drubbed the Bulldogs 63-12 back in week seven at Convoy.
Jefferson's Tyler Mox returned the opening kickoff on the chilly night 70 yards all the way to the Ada 10. But the Bulldog defense came up big and held the Wildcats to a short field goal by Kurt Waullenhapt with 9:54 to go in the first period.
Ada came back with a good drive ignited by a substantial Matt Wilcox pass to Owen Conley. A Blake Ansley reception helped the Bulldogs advance to the DJ 16.
But two straight losses on runs by Wilcox set up fourth and 10. A bubble screen came up five yards short and the Wildcats took over at their own 15.
A keeper by Wildcat quarterback Austin Jettinghoff gained 27 yards. A defensive holding in the secondary gained 10 more yards into Bulldog territory.
NWC Back of the Year Zavier Buzard ripped off a 19-yard run to the Ada 26. Tight end and NWC Lineman of the Year Ross Thompson hauled in a nine-yard reception.
But then Jettinghoff was sacked by Hunter Waller and fumbled, and Luke Long-Green recovered near the Bulldog 30.
Wilcox connected with Spencer Archer on a big gain near midfield. On third and 10 Wilcox scrambled out of trouble and hit Ansley for a key gain down to the DJ 40.
Two plays later, first team all-league signal-caller Wilcox completed a back shoulder toss to Archer for a 35-yard TD reception with 57 seconds to go in the period. After the point after kick sailed low but good, the Bulldogs led 7-3 following the 70-yard scoring march capped by Archer's ninth TD catch.
DJ took over at its own 35 after the ensuing kickoff. A long pass to Thompson inside the Ada 10 was called back due to holding and interference.
On second and 23 they gained 11 yards via a Jettinghoff aerial. Yet an illegal shift made it third and 17 and after a long pass fell incomplete, DJ punted to the Ada 19.
An 18-yard pass to Hunter Waller got the Bulldogs a first down. Conley took a screen seven yards. Two passes were incomplete and Ada punted. A holding penalty on the return pinned DJ back at its own seven.
After an incompletion, Buzard broke a tackle and gained seven yards to set up third and three. Buzard kept the chains moving with another run of seven yards.
Another holding flag forced DJ into first and 20. But Thompson hauled in a long pass and was only kept out of the end zone by a Wilcox tackle after a 57-yard catch and carry play to the Ada 31.
Thompson snared an 11-yard pass over the middle. Buzard sped 13 yards to make it first and goal from the Bulldog seven. This time they did not turn the ball over in the red zone as Buzard shook off a couple tacklers and found paydirt from seven yards out to put DJ back in front 10-7.
The Wallenhaupt PAT capped the 93-yard scoring drive with 3:24 to go before intermission.
Due to a penalty on the ensuing kickoff, Ada started at their own 12. Wilcox quickly dug them out of a hole with a 20-yard run up the middle.
Next, the Ada senior QB found Conley on a nine-yard toss. A screen fell incomplete to bring up third and one, but Wilcox kept the chains moving with a seven-yard keeper.
Wilcox then had his pass down the seam intercepted at the 30 by Trevor Dudgeon, who returned it just past midfield with 1:53 left in the half.
On third and eight, a second straight pass to Thompson came up short to force a punt that rolled dead at the Bulldog eight with just 48 seconds to go in the half.
With only one timeout left, Ada ran out the clock following a six-yard Ansley run to head into the break down by three.
The Bulldogs won the coin flip but deferred to the second half, and they opened the third period at their own 28. Ansley quickly snagged a seven-yard pass. Wilcox was tackled for a short loss and on third and four a short pass came up just short, forcing fourth down.
But Ada guttily faked the punt with a short snap to up man Ansley, who narrowly kept the chains moving on a clutch run. Wilcox ran seven yards and then hit Austin Dumbaugh for a gain of six yards and a first down.
Wilcox lost four on a scramble out of bounds. On second and 14, Dumbaugh hauled in another first down catch on a gain of 14.
Wilcox made something out of nothing with a nice seven-yard scamper. A 15-yard pass over the middle to a diving Dumbaugh advanced Ada to the DJ 12.
An incompletion and a sack brought up third and 15, where Conley caught a pass for four yards. On fourth and 10, Wilcox completed a crucial 12-yard TD pass to Dumbaugh with 6:31 to go in the quarter.
A two-point run by Wilcox into the right side of the end zone made it 15-10, Ada. He was 6-7 passing on the drive, with four aerials going to Dumbaugh for 53 yards, spearheading the 72-yard, 13-play scoring march that ate up nearly half of the stanza.
DJ began the following possession at its own 32. On third and six, a pass to Thmpson gained five yards to make it fourth and a long one.
In response to the Ada fake punt, DJ appeared to go for it on fourth down and tried to draw the Bulldogs off sides with a long count, but had to call timeout when Ada did not bite.
Buzard got the first down on a three-yard run off a pitch-out to the right side. A pass to Josh Teman gained eight yards, and on third and two, Buzard again picked up a key first down.
Buzard then scurried 23 yards down the left sideline but a late hit by DJ after the play moved the big gain back 15 yards to the 38.
Jettinghoff then hit a leaping Jordan McCann on a leaping catch for 37 yards all the way down to the Ada one. On the next play Buzard scored untouched to cap the 68-yard, 10-play drive.
On the two-point pass, Jettinghoff's pas fell incomplete to keep DJ's lead at only one, 16-15.
Ada returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 36. Ansley netted eight yards on a quick pass. Ansley earned a first down with a tough three-yard run.
Wilcox scrambled for a short gain and a facemask penalty plus a costly personal foul tacked on more yards all the way to the DJ 34. However, an already dinged-up Wilcox was hurt on the play it appeared when he ran into the yard marker.
Dumbaugh took over for Wilcox and ran for three yards on two plays. On third and six, Ansley scampered nine yards to the DJ 20.
Ansley netted six more yards as the third period expired. Five more yards by Ansley earned a first and goal at the nine. Another run gained five yards inside the five. Wilcox re-entered the game and ran up the middle for a four-yard TD run with 10:52 remaining.
After a penalty, the two-point conversion pass was picked off in the end zone to make the score 21-16 in favor of Ada. The clutch 64-yard drive took 10 plays as 56 of the yards came on the ground.
Ada recovered the following kickoff when the low boot hit an up man's helmet and bounced back to the Bulldog 33. A short run and an illegal procedure made it second and 12.
Dumbaugh gained nine before going out of bounds. On a key third and three, Wilcox gained three yards on a big run.
Wilcox then carried multiple Wildcats 15 yards to the DJ 43. A penalty cost Ada five yards, and after an incompletion and a short pass it was fourth and 12.
The Bulldogs punted and DJ started just its second possession of the half at its own 10 with just 7:33 left.
Mox gained 15 yards on a pass over the middle. Thompson picked up 26 more on a stop and go aerial. Another pass netted six yards. Two incompletions made it fourth and four at the Ada 33 with 4:41 to go.
Buzard circled out of the backfield up with an 18-yard reception to keep the drive alive. Thompson pulled in a six-yard pass to the Bulldog nine. Two incompletions made it fourth and four.
But this time DJ did not come through.
Wilcox intercepted a tipped pass that deflected off a Bulldog and a Wildcat into his hands at the goal line. The speedster then weaved his way the length of the field all the way to the end zone for a backbreaking 27-16 lead.
The two-point pass was broken up to keep the margin at 11 with 3:12 to go.
Desperate DJ quickly drove 76 yards downfield in six plays, and McCann hauled in a 13-yard TD pass from Jettinghoff with just 1:32 left. The two-point pass was incomplete to keep Ada in front, 27-22.
The following short Wildcat on-sides kickoff try sailed out of bounds just across midfield. Ada then was able to run out the clock after a 13-yard run by the athletic Wilcox as DJ had only two timeouts left.
Notes and stats
Wilcox completed 13 of 17 aerials in the first half for 150 yards while Jettinghoff connected on six of 11 passes for 108 yards.
Ada has outscored its opposition 317-236 (28.8 ppg-21.4 ppg) this season. The Bulldogs improved to 4-3 on the road with the win.
Ada came into the contest ranked seventh in the Div. VI, region 20 computer rankings. DJ entered the game second in the regional ratings.
The Bulldogs have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs seven consecutive years. Their last foray into the third round came in 2009, when they fell in overtime to Delphos St. John's.
1 2 3 4 F
Ada 7 0 8 12 27
DJ 3 7 6 6 22