LIMA — Anna junior running back Zach Osborn had gotten the call more often than not in a fireworks-filled regional semifinal on Friday at Lima Spartan Stadium.
Everyone on the field and in the stands knew he would get another call on a third-and-four with about 1:45 left when Anna was clinging to a five-point lead.
“I just had trust in my offensive line,” Osborn said. “I knew we could pull through. I just had to keep running the ball behind them. It’s all them.”
Osborn ran to his left, found a gap and picked up nine yards — more than enough for a first down — and the Rockets knelt a few times to run out the clock in a 56-51 victory over Tri-Village in a Division VI, Region 24 semifinal.
The win is the fifth in a row for Anna (8-5) and earns the squad a spot in its first regional final since 2019. The Rockets will face Midwest Athletic Conference foe Versailles (11-2), which beat Cincinnati Country Day 55-13 in a semifinal in Xenia on Friday.
“We may have been doubted, may have not, I don’t know,” Osborn said of the playoff run. “I think we can keep it rolling. I’m feeling good, and I think we can go far.”
After losing two in a row to Versailles and Marion Local, which won a D-VII regional semifinal on Friday, the Rockets have scored at least 35 points in their last five games and have broken 50 in all three playoff wins.
“I think we have a lot more confidence and we’re getting healthy,” Osborn said. “I think it’s our confidence. We’re back!”
Osborn has been a big part of the offensive success. He’s run for over 180 yards in each of the three playoff wins, including 343 on 35 carries on Friday against Tri-Village. He ran for six TDs.
“We’re getting a little healthier on our offensive line,” Marino said. “We’ve got two lineman that have been out for a little while, and they’re back in. Lane Howell, he’s a three-year starter for us and he missed most of the season, has been back. He’s been making a difference, and Anthony Gehret as well. He’s playing pretty well after coming back.”
Anna needed all of Osborn’s yards in a back-and-forth battle with the Patriots.
Anna scored three straight touchdowns to take a 22-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Patriots retook the lead at 23-22 early in the third. Anna scored the next two touchdowns to retake control, but Tri-Village continually pulled within one score.
Osborn and Anna’s offense continually responded, though, to keep the squad ahead.
“I’ll have some nightmares about this one, but at least I’ll sleep tonight, because if we wouldn’t have gotten some of those plays there, some of those runs, it could have been different,” Marino said. “Our offensive line did a nice job, and some big runs by Zach down the stretch. If we don’t get those, I’m not sleeping very well tonight.”
Anna finished with 479 yards of offense while Tri-Village (11-2) finished with 365.
Aside from Osborn, Anna quarterback Alex Shappie ran for 46 yards and two TDs on 12 carries and completed 5-of-12 passes for 81 yards with one interception.
Tri-Village senior Reed Wehr scored four touchdowns (including an 87-yard kickoff return in the second quarter) and had the bulk of the team’s 210 rushing yards.
“It was a fun game. The kids played hard,” Marino said. “Their back (Wehr) is the best back I’ve seen all year. He’s pretty good. We had trouble tackling him.
“We’ve definitely got to play better defense and be more sound than that. We’ve got our work cut out for next week.”
Versailles, which was ranked No. 3 in Div. VI in the final Associated Press state poll, beat the Rockets 41-14 in a MAC game on Sept. 29 in Anna. The squads will face off at a site to be determined; the OHSAA will announce locations on Sunday.
“They’re a good football team,” Marino said. “They’re very sound defensively. They’re a great task for us next week. We’re excited to see these guys again. A chance to play in Week 14 is exciting. We’ve got to do a better job of tackling in that game. We’re working on tackling, getting to the football and doing a better job this week.”
Anna struggled on offense late in the first half on Friday and early in the second.
Tri-Village scored the last two touchdowns of the first half to pull within 22-17 at halftime. Anna went three-and-out to start the third quarter, and a partially blocked punt resulted in the Patriots getting the ball at Anna’s 40.
Braden Keating scored on a 9-yard TD run with 9:35 left to give Tri-Village a 23-22 lead after a missed extra point.
But Osborn broke free on a 54-yard TD run with 6:44 left, and he ran in with the help of a push from behind on a two-point conversion try to give the Rockets a 30-23 lead.
Anna recovered an onside kick attempt, then drove and scored on a 3-yard TD run by Osborn to take a 37-23 lead with 2:18 left.
Osborn and Anna were able to continually run through the rest of the night.
“We just had to quit shooting ourselves in the foot,” Marino said. “We stopped ourselves a couple of times. We had to make some plays that we didn’t in a couple of those drives, and we’re going to work on making some better calls and what we’ve got to fix as coaches.
“Overall, we came out and pounded the rock pretty dang well the second half, and that’s what we had to do to win tonight.”
The Patriots quickly responded after Wehr broke free on a run up the middle and raced 44 yards for a TD with 1:23 left. Anna blocked the extra point to keep an eight-point lead.
Osborn then broke free on a long run on the first play of the next possession before being forced out of bounds inside the 5. He ran in two plays later to boost Anna’s lead to 44-29 with 29 seconds left in the third.
But Tri-Village again quickly drove and scored when Wehr ran in from 22 yards out. Wehr caught a two-point conversion pass to cut the gap to 44-37 with 11:38 left in the fourth.
Shappie scored on a 20-yard TD run with 8:38 left. The Rockets missed an extra-point try but led 50-37 with 8:39 left.
Tri-Village again responded quickly. After a big fourth down conversion, Wehr scored on an 8-yard TD run with 6:31 left. The Patriots made an extra-point try to pull within 50-44.
But Osborn broke free on a 51-yard TD run with 4:17 left. Anna again missed an extra-point try but led 56-44.
Tri-Village again responded. Keating ran in from 3 yards out with 2:32 left, then kicked the extra point to cut the gap to 56-51.
But Anna was able to run out the clock thanks to Osborn converting a third-and-four.
Keating completed 17-of-26 passes for 155 yards with one TD and two interceptions, both of which were in the first half and allowed the Rockets to take a lead.
Tri-Village recovered an onside kick by Anna to start the game and drove to the red zone before stalling. Keating made a 30-yard field goal with just under seven minutes left to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
Anna turned it overs on downs at Tri-Village’s 41. The Patriots were forced to punt with under a minute left, and the Rockets drove and scored on a 4-yard TD run by Alex Shappie with 10:26 left in the second to take a 7-3 lead.
Noah Aufderhaar intercepted a pass from Keating and returned it inside the 5, then Osborn scored on a short run. After a penalty, Anna opted for a two-point conversion, and Osborn ran in to give the Rockets a 15-3 lead.
Aaron Shappie intercepted a Keating pass and had a long return up the visitor’s sideline. He was stopped at about the 5, but Osborn ran in from 3 yards out shortly after to boost the lead to 22-3.
But Wehr returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to cut the gap to 22-10, then Anna turned it over on downs at Tri-Village’s 37.
The Patriots drove and scored on a 9-yard TD pass from Keating to Tanner Printz with 2:14 left to cut the gap to 22-17.
The Rockets drove to the red zone, but Wehr intercepted a pass in the end zone shortly before halftime.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.