RAVENNA, OH- Portage Community Bank Stadium and it's blue turf field was the sight of Saturday night's Division IV - Region 13 Regional semi-final matchup between the #1 seed West Branch Warriors and #13 seed Akron Buchtel Griffins. The Warriors were coming off a 54-35 second round win over Struthers while the Griffins took out Canal Fulton 31-14 extending their season win streak to 8 games. West Branch is led by Eastern Illinois commit Dru DeShields at QB.
West Branch received the ball first at their own 29 yard line. On the third play of the drive DeShields hit Boston Mulinix out of the backfield and he scampered 27 yards before fumbling. The ball was recovered by Buchtel at their 39 yard line.
The Griffins would take full advantage of the turnover. After an incomplete pass and a holding penalty moved them into a 2 and and 20, standout RB Wylie Cheairs ripped off a 33 yard run into Warrior territory. The 11 play 63 yard drive culminated with a Steve Diamond 7 yard touchdown pass to Demetric Coates. The PAT was missed and Buchtel jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Cheairs gained 55 of those yards on the ground.
On their next possession West Branch again committed a turnover in Griffin territory as Dru DeShield was picked off by Buchtel DB Zyaire Lewis. The interception was only DeShields third of the season.
Rather than capitalizing on a second straight Warrior turnover, the Griffins turned it over themselves on a fumble by Marcel Boyce following a 10 yard reception from Diamond. This time it would be West Branch capitalizing on the turnover as 58 yards in 4 plays capped off by a Boston Mulinix 17 yard touchdown run. Their 2 point conversion attempt failed making the score 6-6 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
Buchtel was able to answer right back on their next drive after a failed onside kick attempt by West Branch gave the Griffins the ball the Warriors 41 yard line. Diamond completed 3 passes on the 6 play drive the last of which was an 11 yard touchdown strike to 6'4" WR Dakota Taylor. The PAT gave Buchtel a 13-6 lead with 12.8 seconds left in the 1st quarter. Diamond was 3/4 for 36 yards on the drive.
The Griffins kept the positive momentum going as they held West Branch to a punt holding them on a 3rd and 11. On the fourth down punt attempt the snapped sailed over the punters head and was fallen on at the 19 yard line. Credit to the West Branch defense who held Buchtel to four yards and a 32 yard field goal attempt that was converted by Demetrion Duvall giving Buchtel a 17-6 lead with 7:51 to play in the half.
West Branch was able to atone for the mistake on the next drive as DeShields took a QB keeper into the end zone from 13 yards out. He was also able to run in the 2 point conversion attempt bringing the Warriors within three at 17-14 with just over five minutes left in the half.
Disaster struck for Buchtel on their next drive as Cheairs fumbled on the first play and it was recovered by West Branch LB Beau Alazaus at their 47 yard line. West Branch would again capitalize as DeShields scored on another rushing touchdown, this one from 10 yards out. PAT was good and West Branch took a 21-17 lead.
After a quick 3 and out by Buchtel, the Warriors scored on a 57 yard catch and run from DeShields to Joey Jackson for another touchdown. The successful PAT set the halftime score at 28-17 in favor of West Branch.
Neither team scored again until late in the 3rd quarter. A nice 57 yard punt by Buchtel's Demetriot Duvall pinned West Branch back at their own 5 yard line. The Warriors would execute the most impressive drive of the night going 95 yards in 10 plays capped off by a 25 yard scoring strike from DeShields to Christian Martig. The PAT was missed making it a 34-17 Warrior lead with 2:13 to play 3rd quarter.
Buchtel tried to answer but had a nice drive stall in Warrior territory leading to a long field goal attempt that was blocked and recovered at the 47 yard line. Fortunately for the Griffins West Branch was unable to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs at the 17 yard line.
Buchtel was not going away as the biggest play of the night happened on their next possession. Steve Diamond hit Zyaire Lewis in stride for a 79 yard scoring strike. The PAT made it a 10 point game at 34-24.
West Branch however was able to answer back with a big play of their own as DeShields hit Christian Martig on a 56 yard scoring strike. PAT was good and that pushed the West Branch lead to 41-24 with 6:31 to play.
Buchtel would answer right back as Steve Diamond went to work completing 7 passes on the drive the last of which went 11 yards to Marcel Boyce for a touchdown. The PAT made it a 10 point game again at 41-31 with 2:53 to play.
The Buchtel defense came up big holding West Branch. On a 3rd and 10 the ball was snapped over Deshields head and into the end zone resulting in a safety. That made it a one possession game at 41-33 with 1:45 to play and the Griffins would receive the kick with a chance to tie it up.
The kick return was taken back 40 yards all the way down to the Warrior 20 yard line. The Griffins were faced with a 4th and 8 from the 18 yard line when Diamond threw a pass into the back corner of the end zone that Dakota Taylor caught but was ruled out of bounds. That turned the ball back over to West Branch who ran out the clock for the win.
West Branch (12-1) now advances to face Jefferson (10-3) in next weeks Regional final.
Steve Diamond: 18/37, 239 yds, 4 TD
Zyaire Lewis: 5 rec, 110 yds, TD
Marcel Boyce: 6 rec, 88 yds, TD
Dru DeShields: 30/46, 374 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Boston Mulinix: 15 rush, 75 yds, TD
Christian Martig: 11 rec, 162 yds, 2 TD
Joey Jackson: 6 rec, 101 yds, TD
I caught up with West Branch head coach Tim Cooper and QB Dru DeShields after the big win.
This Regional semi-final recap is brought to you by Brunswick Auto Mart!