By Ryan Hines
LIMA -- Celina's first-ever matchup against Lima Senior ended in heartbreak on Friday night at Lima Stadium.
Lima Senior quarterback Matt Beggin drove the Spartans to the game-winning touchdown and scored on a four-yard run with just 38 ticks left on the clock to defeat Celina, 28-24.
Celina led 24-21 with 3:02 left on the clock and Lima Senior started its drive on its own 14-yard line with Beggin back at quarterback for his first series since being knocked out of the game early in the third quarter.
Beggin showed no rust in his return as quarterback orchestrating the game-winning drive with several highlight reel plays.
On three different occasions, Beggin looked as if he was going to be sacked by the oncoming Celina defense, but the junior signal caller escaped and found an open receiver each time. Beggin threw for 72 yards and ran for 14 more in accounting for all of the yardage in the nine-play drive.
"He made some outstanding plays out there on that final drive," pointed out Celina head coach Mike Fell, clearly disappointed with the four-point loss. "We put some pressure on him, but he was able to get away and the receivers did a nice job of getting open and he was able to find them for some big plays. We thought we had him two or three times but he got away. We didn't surround him and didn't bring him down, but give him credit."
Beggin's return to the lineup was somewhat of a surprise after taking a vicious hit by the Celina defense in the third quarter.
"That was an exciting win," said Lima Senior head coach Rick Vaughn. "Matt has been in the two-minute offense before and he's comfortable in it. He was able to escape from a few sacks a couple of different times and our receivers made great catches for him. He had a cramp on the late hit that the officials missed and he came back in a big situation and you can't ask for more out of the kid to come back and play the way he did on the final drive.
"That was a storybook finish to a great high school football game," added Vaughn.
Beggin finished the night 6-of-9 for 80 yards.
Turnovers played a major role in the game as Celina committed five miscues (three fumbles, two interceptions) and Lima Senior turned it over four times (three fumbles, one interception).
Celina had one turnover that turned into seven points for Lima Senior when freshman defensive back Cortey Edwards scooped up an errant pass behind the line of scrimmage and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
"We gave a great effort tonight, but we made some mistakes and had too many turnovers," said Fell. "We gave them the ball three times on fumbles and threw two interceptions. Some of those turnovers came when were driving the ball and we didn't score points and it came back to haunt us. We had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold it."
Chapin turned the ball over three times, but he was also the offensive sparkplug for Celina showing versatility from the quarterback position.
Chapin threw for 75 yards, including a 32-yard strike to Stu Amstutz for a touchdown in the second quarter, and added a game-high 95 yards on 22 carries with two rushing touchdowns.
"He (Chapin) gave a great effort out there and played a whale of a game," said Vaughn. "Celina threw the kitchen sink at us and did everything that they could to win the game and almost did it."
The Bulldogs will have to shake the disappointment quickly with archrival and league favorite St. Marys coming to Celina Stadium on Friday night for the Western Buckeye League opener for both teams.