ANTWERP - It was a game of inches … literally.

That was the distance Patrick Henry came up short of a game-tying, and potential winning, score on the final play of Saturday’s Division VII Region 26 playoff contest. A Landon Brewer open-field tackle brought down PH receiver Ryan Kurtz just short of the goal line as the clock expired, giving Antwerp a 14-7 victory.

“Our DB’s responsibilities were to not allow anything behind us and to make their quarterback throw in front of us so that we can come up and make a play on either the football or the guy catching it,” Brewer explained. “Once the play started I dropped back, keeping my guy in front of me, then I was looking at the quarterback to see where he was gonna throw it. Once I saw that he was throwing it to my guy, I broke on it and tackled him at what seemed like the one-inch line.

“Once I tackled him and we both fell to the ground, I saw the ball inches short of the goal line. The relief and excitement that I felt after I saw he wasn’t in the end zone was unmatchable to any other moment in my football career.”

Antwerp head coach Jason Hale was relieved that it all worked out as planned.

“The strategy discussed was for us to just be ourselves and do what we do,” Hale said in reliving the play. “We prepared hard all week and were able to come up with a stop because we were prepared each day throughout the week.

“The Kurtz kid made the catch and Brewer made the tackle at the one,” Hale continued. “I knew as soon as it happened that he was stopped short, I had a great view. I was so happy for our guys that they made a great play to come up with a big stop at the end of the game.”

Jagger Landers, who did not play in the second half due to an illness, had another perspective from the sidelines.

“It was a little intense, but obviously I was confident in our guys and what they could do,” Landers related. “I was watching the defensive line and saw the quarterback release it and then turned and saw the catch at the five. Then he got bearhugged at the one and my eyes went straight to the ref who raised his hands up like it was no good.”

The senior wideout had given the Archers a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on a six-yard TD reception from Carson Altimus after Antwerp had scored on a Reid Lichty seven-yard run on the opening drive of the game for an early 7-0 advantage.

“The first drive in this game was a statement,” Hale said of taking a lead the Archers would never relinquish. “We talked all week about getting off to a great start and we did that. We drove the field and were able to put it in the end zone. With a great mix of run and pass, we were consistent and balanced all night.”

The perennial state power from Henry County finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when quarterback Nash Meyer hit paydirt on a nine-yard run to cap a 72-yard drive to begin the second half.

It stayed that way, though not without some big plays.

Perhaps the biggest came with 2:51 remaining when Kaden Recker intercepted a Meyer pass at the goal line after the Patriots had reached the Antwerp 10-yard line.

“Recker has been our go-to corner all year,” Hale noted. “He will take any matchup and do it to the best of his ability. He plays hard and wants the challenge of making plays. That was a senior leader stepping up and making a great play to help us secure the victory.”

But PH had one more opportunity after a Brewer punt gave the Patriots possession at the Antwerp 45 with 14.3 seconds to go. After an incompletion, a 24-yard pass left Patrick Henry 22 yards from the end zone with 2.2 seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, Meyer connected with Kurtz at the five, but Brewer came up with the big hit to stop the PH receiver before he could get the ball to the goal line.

Meyer finished with 49 yards on 11 carries to lead the PH ground game while Landon Johnson hauled in six passes for 47 yards for the Patriots, which had just 228 yards of total offense. Meyer was 15-22 through the air for 136 yards.

“Defensively, we had a great game plan and our three D linemen played extremely well,” Hale explained. “Kendric Robinson was a man in the middle all night getting triple-teamed and was still making plays. Everyone played hard and played team defense. We held them to 20 yards in the first half which was outstanding.”

Robinson was one of six Antwerp defensive players with four or more tackles in the game, with Hayden Wagner leading the way with 12, Altimus totaling eight and Lichty seven.

“We saw in studying film what their strengths and weaknesses were and we knew their quarterback was lethal,” Robinson pointed out. “We had to stop their passing game and our defense did a good job of stopping that and the run game when he scrambled. Kaden Phares had a great game stopping him.”

Phares, who was dominant up front with three tackles-for-loss to go along with a shared sack with Landers, was once again important in putting on the rush during the final play of the game.

“I was attempting to pressure their quarterback trying to force him to get the ball out quickly or scramble and I saw the throw and catch,” the Antwerp senior reflected. “I watched the receiver cut toward the middle and I saw Landon stop him. After that I had a feeling of relief and happiness.”

Landers had seven catches for 63 yards in one half of action while Recker caught four for 49 yards. Altimus was 15-30 for 142 yards passing while adding 75 yards on 20 rushing attempts. Lichty ran 12 times for 57 yards for the Archers, which had 274 total yards in advancing to the second round of the postseason with their first home playoff win since a 21-17 victory over Ayersville during a 10-2 2020 campaign.

“PH is a great program, with a great coaching staff, and great players,” Hale said. “They’ve played in 50 playoff games under their coach or something like that, so we knew it was gonna be a challenge. We just had to attack for four quarters and play hard. It was a quality win versus a quality opponent.”

The only other postseason win in school history came a year ago when the Archers defeated Waynesfield-Goshen 20-17 in the opening round before falling to Leipsic. Like in 2020, the road on the playoff trail does not get any easier with a road trip to Edon, a team that defeated Antwerp 41-26 back in week two at Edon. The Blue Bombers beat Spencerville 28-20 this past Saturday to pick up the program’s second all-time playoff win, the other coming a year ago with a victory over Arcadia. Edon, rated 10th in the final state poll, enters the game with the Archers at 10-1, the lone loss coming to fourth-ranked Norwalk St. Paul, 45-44, on Sept. 11.

“Edon is a great program,” Hale said in looking ahead to the upcoming game this Saturday night at 7 p.m. “They have great athletes all over the field, a great line, and a great quarterback. They are explosive and big-play material. We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to have a chance to beat them. They’re great at making plays on both sides of the ball, and we have to be able to match their intensity.”

The chance to move on while winning the last home game is memorable for those on this year’s squad.

“This means a lot,” Robinson concluded. “I love the game of football and I love Antwerp. Getting this win makes me happy for the graduates I played with the last two years and for the community that has given us so much fan support. I’m happy to get this win for them.”

Phares is hoping to do it again this week.

“When I saw everyone run onto the field celebrating it was an amazing feeling,” Phares said. “It’s something I want to experience again next Saturday.”

SUMMARY

Patrick Henry 0 0 7 0 - 7

Antwerp 7 7 0 0 - 14

A - Lichty 7-run (Walker kick)

A - Landers 6-pass from Altimus (Walker kick)

PH - Meyer 9-run (Creager kick)