Fredonia’s going to Highmark Stadium.
The third-seeded Hillbillies defeated the seventh-seeded Southwestern Trojans 28-21 in the Section VI Class C semifinals Friday night at Dunkirk High School’s Karl Hoeppner Field, setting up a final in the Bills’ home stadium with top-seeded and No. 1- state ranked Medina
Fredonia sailed out to a 21-0 advantage but saw Southwestern tie the score, in a game as tight as their regular-season matchup, a 27-25 Fredonia win that went down to the last play.
“We fought through adversity for a very, very long time in the second half,” Fredonia coach Greg Sherlock said. “Our older guys stepped up, got a little more pressure. I think they were staying home more, keeping (quarterback Aidan Kennedy) in the pocket, he didn’t have a lot of room to run. When you give Kennedy a lot of time in the pocket, he’s either going to pick you apart with his arm or he’s going to be running.”
“We came out and these kids busted their butts. They gave it everything they had,” Southwestern coach Jake Burkholder said. “I couldn’t ask for more. We had guys step up who had to fill in for some guys this week. Those guys gave it their all … it’s a bright future here for sure. It’s a tough way to go out but I can’t ask any more of these kids.”
The game started with some opening-kickoff trickery by the Trojans, rolling a kick that Fredonia couldn’t handle as Southwestern recovered on the Hillbillies’ 36-yard line. Quarterback Kennedy immediately found Jason Mead for a 34-yard pass to the 2.
The Fredonia defense stiffened from there and forced fourth down, where Kennedy threw incomplete.
The Hillbillies wound up punting, but their offense went right back to business after a Nick Whitfield interception of Kennedy. Whitfield completed an 11-yarder to Ethan Fry on third-and-6, scrambled for 11 more, then found Fry for the opening touchdown of the game.
Fredonia then did a short kickoff of its own, which the Hillbillies recovered after a Southwestern player got both hands on the ball but saw it bounce out.
The ensuing Hillbillies’ drive featured runs of 11 and 19 yards by Matt Lotter, who finished the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 Fredonia.
The Hillbillies then forced a Trojans punt after a sack by Sam Atzrott and proceeded to make it 21-0. A 25-yard pass from Whitfield to Simon Davis highlighted the drive, finished off by another Lotter touchdown run.
Southwestern got on the board on their ensuing possession, the Trojans’ drive helped by a Kennedy 11-yard scramble and a Fredonia face mask penalty after he got stuffed on the next run. Kennedy later threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Lemk on fourth-and-inches.
Fredonia then ran a 13-play drive to end the half that gained no points, done in by penalties despite two fourth-down conversions.
Southwestern wound up down 21-7 at halftime, and the Hillbillies would wish they had scored some points to end that first half.
Southwestern took the second half kickoff and marched downfield on a drive where Kennedy looked excellent, slinging passes of 22 and 12 yards to Mead and 8 yards to Lemk. He ripped off an 18-yard touchdown run to make it a one-possession game.
The Trojans then gave the Hillbillies a taste of their own squib-kick medicine, recovering the bouncing ball. Not much happened on the ensuing possession until Fredonia took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Two plays later, Kennedy weaved through traffic for a 16-yard score, and the extra point tied the game.
“Southwestern’s coaches are pretty awesome,” Sherlock said. “To have the game plan they did with what they had was pretty amazing. Hats off to them, I thought they outplayed us in the second half.”
“There’s always a chance, especially when you’ve got the momentum rolling,” Burkholder said.
Southwestern tried yet another short kick but this time, Fredonia recovered. Whitfield threw an interception but Kennedy gave the ball right back on a fumble during a scramble.
Three straight possessions then ended in punts, but Davis made the defensive play of the game in picking off Kennedy with about seven minutes remaining in the game. He returned the ball to the Southwestern 28-yard line, then on the very next play, Whitfield connected with Davon McCall in the end zone for what turned out to be the winning points.
A Matt Cash interception blotted out Southwestern’s next possession. Fredonia then went three-and-out and Southwestern drove the ball right down the field, helped out by Fredonia penalties, including a pass interference call on fourth down. However, Jameson Quinn made an interception at about the Fredonia 10-yard line, sealing the win.
Southwestern 0 7 14 0 — 21
Fredonia 14 7 0 7 — 28
Fre–Fry 16 pass from Whitfield (Tabone kick)
Fre–Lotter 1 run (Tabone kick)
Fre–Lotter 6 run (Tabone kick)
Sou–Lemk 16 pass from Kennedy (Hoose kick)
Sou–Kennedy 2 run (Hoose kick)
Sou–Kennedy 17 run (Hoose kick)
Fre–McCall 28 pass from Whitfield (Tabone kick)