By Gary R. Rasberry
KENTON -- For nearly two quarters, Celina had a lot of luck going for them against Kenton.
The Bulldogs had a 14-7 lead with less than two minutes to go and Kenton had to go 70 yards with just one timeout left.
The Wildcats, who had to bring a new quarterback into the lineup this week, needed some luck.
And they got it.
Receiver-turned quarterback Braden Spivey came up with a long throw to Tommy Petitt for a touchdown with 78 seconds left, then promptly ran the two-point conversion up the middle to give Kenton a 15-14 win over the Bulldogs at Robinson Field. Kenton improves to 3-1 overall and keeps a share of the Western Buckeye League top spot at 3-0. Celina drops to 1-3 and 0-3. Celina played a strong game, totaling 252 yards of offense, but had three turnovers in the second half that prevented the Bulldogs from adding to their lead.
"It was a pretty solid football game," said Celina coach Mike Fell. "I thought we played as hard as we could possibly play. Holding (Kenton) to seven points until the last minute and a half of the game is exceptional."
Celina had to punt with just under three minutes left. It looked like the Bulldogs, though, would keep the ball when punter Andy Harner was run into by a Kenton defender. Rather than the roughing the kicker call, officials ruled it running into the kicker, a five-yard penalty rather than 15 yards and a first down. Harner booted the ball to the 18 with a return to the Kenton 30.
Spivey, who usually lines up as a receiver or a slot back, came in and threw three straight short passes to Petitt, getting Kenton 16 yards closer. Celina anticipated another pass, but Spivey ran the draw up the middle for a first down on the Celina 46.
Petitt lined up again for a possible short pass, but broke up the sideline. Spivey waited and fired to Petitt, who beat his defender for a 46-yard touchdown with 1:18 left in the game.
Kenton coach Mike Mauk wasted no time and called for the two-pointer rather than kick the PAT to tie the game. After two Celina timeouts and Kenton's final timeout, Spivey and Zack Jackson lined up in the shotgun backfield. Celina kept its eye on Jackson but Spivey called for the draw, breaking up the middle and breaking the plane of the goal to put Kenton up one point.
"There was things we thought we could do, but Celina had a good defensive plan," said Mauk. "Our kids played extremely hard. We turned the ball over early allowing (Celina) to get the lead. We didn't get any confidence back on offense until that last drive. We got the ball to Tommy (who had nine catches for 102 yards) and he made a spectacular catch."
Celina still had time, but used its last two timeouts on Kenton's conversion play. Joe Roberts took the kick on the 17 and faked the reverse to roll up to the 40, where he was stopped.
Celina quarterback Erik Chapin came out and looked for a sideline pass. On first down, Chapin looked for Jordan Heuker, but the throw was wide. On second down, Chapin rolled right but was sacked by Ty Cook. Celina hurried back to the line and Chapin looked for Heuker again, but the ball was short, setting up fourth down.
With Kenton coming with pressure, Chapin looked for Roberts and fired. Roberts looked to be in possession, but Kenton defender Josh Klinger, teetering close to interference, got in the way, allowing Kenton to just take a knee and end the game.
Kenton won despite recording a staggering seven fumbles in the game. Three of the fumbles were recovered by Celina, with two recoveries leading to Celina's scores. With a fourth-and-goal from the three, Chapin found Harner for the tying score with 11:31 to go in the second quarter.
On Kenton's next possession, Spivey fumbled and Dane Schwegmen recovered. Celina again was faced with fourth down. Chapin pitched the ball to Harner, who stopped and fired a pass to a wide-open Heuker in the end zone for Celina's second score with 7:26 left in the half.
"I thought we played as hard as we could possibly play," said Fell. "We're a young team and when you get a couple of breaks, you start feeling it. You play better. The offense starts moving the ball. We were doing things we wanted to do that first half."
After a turnover-less first half, Celina finally began to lose the ball, losing two fumbles and having a Chapin pass intercepted. In all, both teams combined for nine fumbles, five losses, and an interception.
Spivey finished his night with a perfect 10-of-10 passing for 114 yards and 60 yards rushing. Jackson, whom Celina had trouble containing, rushed for 66 yards.
Chapin finished 8-for-15 for 64 yards passing and added 56 yards on 15 carries. Kelly Mallory led all rushers with 73 yards on 20 carries.
Celina stays on the road for week five, traveling to Elida.