Mentor, OH- Northeast Ohio was treated to a Greater Cleveland Conference matchup Friday night at the historic Tom Osborne Stadium, as the Mentor High School football team found themselves in a nail-biting showdown against newly rival Medina Bees.
The game had its fair share of twists and turns, but Mentor's Senior Quarterback, Ben Pierce, would steal the spotlight with a game-winning touchdown pass to sophomore sensation Justen Hodge. The final score? A heart-stopping 42-41 victory that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. The anticipation for this game had been building all week, as fans from both Mentor and Medina had circled this matchup on their calendars following last year's 52-38 win for the Bees at Medina. The Mentor Cardinals, led by their star quarterback Scotty Fox, had been battle-tested entering Week 4 with back-to-back close losses to Riverside (34-31) and St. Ignatius (16-14).
"There have been multiple opportunities over these first four weeks to throw in the towel," Mentor Head Coach Matt Gray said postgame.
"These guys have shown up every day and battled. I'm so proud of how they continued to work and it paid off tonight. In the last two weeks, we had the ball and had an opportunity to win the game and we did not finish that. Tonight we did that."
When news broke that Fox would be sidelined due to an injury sustained late in the fourth quarter, after taking a brutal hit running out of bounds, it was clear that this game was about to take an unexpected turn. Enter Ben Pierce, Mentor's senior quarterback. Pierce, who had switched from wide receiver to quarterback this season, now faced the daunting task of filling the shoes of the team's leader.
The pressure was on, and the eyes of the entire Mentor community were upon him. The game itself was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Both teams traded blows throughout the night, with the Bees showcasing their offensive prowess and Mentor's defense working tirelessly to keep the game within reach. It was a true display of high school football at its finest. As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals found themselves trailing by a single score, 41-35 thanks to their special teams blocking Bees kicker Dylan Tackett's extra point attempt.
The tension in the stadium was palpable, and it seemed as though the Bees might leave with the win after a strong start to the game. But Mentor had other plans. With 1:39 remaining on the clock, Ben Pierce stepped into the huddle calmly and determinedly. He knew this was his moment to shine, and he had a talented target in Justen Hodge. The sophomore wide receiver had already made a name for himself with several crucial receptions earlier in the game.
"I've gone to every (Mentor) football game. This is crazy and a dream to be able to play and build a drive like that. He (Justen Hodges) was wide open on that play. He did all the way. This is definitely a play that will remembered for years to come," Pierce said postgame about the 55-yard game-winning touchdown.
The play that would go down in Mentor High School football history began with Pierce taking the snap and scanning the field. The Bees' defense was fierce, but Pierce remained composed under pressure. With a quick pump fake, he bought just enough time to spot Hodge streaking down the sideline. Pierce launched a perfect spiral that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity. Hodge, with a defender draped all over him, extended his arms and made a spectacular catch. The crowd erupted as Hodge broke free and dashed into the end zone, 55 yards later. The stadium erupted in jubilation as Mentor players, coaches, and fans celebrated this incredible victory.
Ben Pierce had not only stepped up when his team needed him the most, but he had also overcome the nervousness of being thrown into an important game at such a time. This game was a testament to the resilience, teamwork, and sheer determination that define high school sports. Mentor High School's Senior QB Ben Pierce and his connection with Justen Hodge will be remembered as the stuff of legends in the annals of Mentor football. Their unforgettable game-winning touchdown will be talked about for generations to come, a shining example of the magic that can happen on a Friday night under the lights of Osborne Stadium.
-QB Danny Stoddard: 27-52 344 yards 4 touchdowns 3 interceptions/ 25 carries 107 yards
-WR Austin Knowles: 12 catches 111 yards 2 touchdowns
WR Jack Wojciak: 7 catches 151 yards 2 touchdowns/8 carries 21 yards 1 touchdown
-QB Scotty Fox: 234 total yards 3 touchdowns
-QB Ben Pierce: 3-6 82 yards 1 touchdown
Medina (2-2, 0-1GCC) will face rival Brunswick (0-4, 0-1GCC) next week at Ken Dukes Stadium. Mentor (2-2, 1-0 GCC) travels to Cleveland Heights (3-1, 1-0GCC) in their first conference battle since the Tigers have recently joined the Greater Cleveland Conference. The last time these two teams battled was in the 2019 playoffs where the Cardinals defeated the Tigers 48-7.