CINCINNATI— There were tears in the eyes of many of the London High School football players following a heartbreaking 10-7 OHSAA Division IV state playoff loss to host Cincinnati Wyoming Friday.
The Red Raiders (8-3) had played as hard as they could, executed as well as they could and unfortunately for them came out on the losing end of a hard-fought game. But while the pain was real, particularly for the 14 seniors on the roster, the reality is London, Ohio is officially back on the Ohio high school football map.
Playing in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, London was poised, strong and played as well as it has all year on both sides of the ball.
“The effort tonight was tremendous,” London coach Kyle Cutler said. “When the first thing the opposing coaches who don’t know you, are from a different area and they’re commenting about how tough and how hard your kids fought that says everything about the program. And it’s probably the biggest compliment you can get as a head coach.”
The host Cowboys (11-0) got a 25-yard field goal from Sergio Listo with just 3:06 left to play in the fourth quarter, breaking a 7-7 tie.
London had one last chance to try and score a touchdown or at least get into field goal range. After a touchback the Raiders opened what would be its final drive at its own 20.
An eight-yard run by KJ Price moved the ball to the 29, but an illegal substitution by the Raiders moved the ball back to the 23. Quarterback Josh Handley scrambled for four yards and Price picked up the first down with a six-yard rush to the left.
Another short run by Price and a screen pass to Price moved the ball out to the London 45-yard line with right around a minute to play. A couple plays later the Raiders had advanced to the Cowboys 45-yard line with :49 to go in regulation.
Needing roughly the 35-yard line to give standout kicker Miller Kronk a legitimate chance at a tying field goal try, Handley dropped back to pass, scrambled around and lofted a pass into traffic for Price. His heave was picked off by the Cowboys Joey Edmonds at the 20-yard line. Edmonds ran around and was finally tackled around his own 40, sealing the game for Wyoming.
The Cowboys came into the game averaging more than 40 points per game, but the London game plan of playing sound assignment defense and controlling the ball on offense worked to perfection. The game was a scoreless tie at the half, and Wyoming finally got on the board on a 75-yard scoring strike form Evan Prater to Miles Smith. The play was one where the quarterback dropped back and threw it rough 50 yards in the air as Smith got behind the London defense.
London however answered right back as Price ripped off a 52-yard run on the ensuing possession and Handley capped off the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown run. On the play the quarterback rolled right, stopped reversed his field and raced into the end zone.
The Cowboys struggled to move the ball all night against the London defense, but its most effective play was throwing the ball up to its wide outs and drawing pass interference calls on the Raiders. That happened on three different occasions, including on a third and eight on Wyoming’s winning drive.
“We were taking a lot of other things away, that quarterback is pretty good and has a future,” Cutler said. “We were daring them to beat us and we got caught on a couple calls.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.