With less than a minute left in Friday’s Rittman-Apple Creek Waynedale game, Michael Halliwell shone brightly in his final high school football game.
“Big Mike” — he’s 6-foot-5 and weighs 300 pounds — had not played in a varsity game all season.
The senior, who has high-functioning autism, played left tackle and the PA announcer congratulated him for a good block.
But then both teams and the officials combined to make it a night to remember.
An Indians assistant coach ran over to Waynedale’s sideline to ask Bears coach Matt Zuercher and his staff if it would be OK for Halliwell to carry the ball, to which Zuercher responded, “We were already thinking the same thing.”
Rittman coach Lane Knore used his final timeout to set up a handoff from QB Matt Evans to Halliwell, who ran it 31 yards for the touchdown with 22 seconds left.
It was a moving gesture for a lot of people, but no one more than Big Mike’s parents.
“Mike deserved that. He’s played football since seventh grade and went to every practice this year,” said Allen Halliwell, who watched along with his wife, Kim. “That lit up Mike’s life. We were crying and the people in the stands were crying. One guy was shaking my hand and it took about 2 minutes until he could talk to me.”
The moment was special for the touchdown-scorer, too.
“I finally got to do something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a little boy — make a touchdown,” Mike said.
The final score was 49-6 in favor of Waynedale, although that’s not what most people will remember about the evening.
To see the TD: http://bit.ly/19qkYxa
PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS? Ashland Mapleton (6-4) is making only its second postseason appearance (in Division VII), and first since 1991; Jacob Miller tossed a 2-yard TD pass to Chase Roberts on the final play as Zanesville Maysville clinched a playoff berth with a 20-19 win at Uhrichsville Claymont; Ty Suntken ran for 90 yards on seven attempts and threw for 271 yards and four TDs in Wauseon’s 35-14 win over Hamler Patrick Henry, clinching its first playoff berth since 1999 while snapping an 11-year run by the Patriots; New Paris National Trail defeated Lewisburg Tri-County North 15-12 to earn its first playoff berth in program history in Division VI; after going 1-29 the past three seasons, Doylestown Chippewa went 8-2 this year and made the playoffs for just the second time and first since 1999 with a 20-13 win at Jeromesville Hillsdale; and Hamilton Badin has qualified for the playoffs 20 times but Saturday’s Division V game against Cincinnati Mariemont will be its first-ever home playoff game.
AT HALFTIME HE SOLD POPCORN: Kaden Sapp had three TD passes and three TD runs in Edon’s 40-21 victory over Gibsonburg; Liberty Center’s Kaleb Pohlman had seven carries for 82 yards and a TD, threw for another score, kicked two PATs and made up for a third PAT kick being blocked with a 26-yard field goal as time expired in a 23-21 win over Archbold; and Joe Burrow completed 12 of 14 passes for 237 yards and four TDs, ran for another score and even caught a 64-yard TD pass — he’s accounted for 104 TDs in 23 career games — as Athens (10-0) beat Nelsonville-York 56-20.
RUSH STREET: Kenton Dickison broke Milton-Union’s 45-year-old record for rushing yardage with 38 carries for 344 yards and four scores in a 37-12 victory over Dayton Northridge; and Wooster’s Martavius Dyson — who played for Orrville a year ago — rushed for 272 yards and five TDs in a 56-0 win.
PASSING FANCY: Fairfield’s Hunter Krause tied a school record with five TD passes, all in the first half, and totaled 362 yards in a 51-21 win over Hamilton; Leipsic’s Zach Kuhlman completed 15 of 24 passes for 214 yards and three TDs in a 26-21 win over Pandora-Gilboa — and also intercepted three passes including one on the final play in the end zone; and Liberty-Brenton capped an unbeaten 9-0 season (a midseason nonleague game against Detroit Edison was called off) by beating Arlington 42-28 as QB Nathan Craft (no relation to Ohio State hoopster Aaron Craft) completed 11 of 11 passes in the first half and 18 of 24 for 234 yards and two TDs overall and also ran for two scores.
AMAZING MAC: A familiar saying in western Ohio is that it’s easier to win a state title than a Midwest Athletic Conference championship. Marion Local, with six state titles under head coach Tim Goodwin, won just its fourth MAC title under Goodwin — and second outright title — in beating New Bremen 42-6. It’s the third time the team has gone 10-0 in the regular season (also in 1971 and 2007). Marion ran the table despite not having starting QB Adam Bertke (Pittsburgh commit) the last 3 1/2 games due to injury and losing backup Dustin Rethman midway through the Week 9 game with Anna. WR Troy Homan, who was a QB his freshman and sophomore years, has come on to throw two TD passes.
BULLETIN-BOARD MATERIAL: For the first time in 114 years of football, Mansfield Senior finished the regular season at 10-0; Thomas Wibbeler threw TD passes to four different receivers as Zanesville wrapped up its first 10-0 season since 1978 with a 60-0 win at Marietta; Trent Yeomans ended the season with six straight 200-yard rushing games to get to 2,007 yards on the season; Middletown Fenwick didn’t throw a pass but totaled 585 rushing yards, including 217 yards by Frank Catrine and 195 by Brandon Moore, in a 70-14 victory over Dayton Carroll; St. Marys Memorial, which went 0-10 for the first time in school history last year, finished 0-10 for a second straight year after losing 41-32 to winless Van Wert — whose only wins the last two seasons have been over the Roughies; Cincinnati Christian (6-4), coached by former Cincinnati Bengal David Fulcher, had never won more than three games in a season since starting varsity football in 2004; Sam Browning of Cincinnati McNicholas intercepted three passes in a 38-24 win over Hamilton Badin; and Glouster Trimble went 10-0 for the first time since 1989 while posting seven shutouts and allowing just 3.3 points per game.
BON VOYAGE: Sandusky Perkins beat up on Sandusky St. Mary 69-13 to wrap up an unbeaten regular season. It is also expected to be the final meeting between the two Sandusky Bay Conference schools located just 2 miles apart. SMCC is leaving the SBC at the end of the school year to become a member of the Sandusky River League.
Fittingly, the series ended in a 26-26 deadlock.