ELYRIA — For the second consecutive year, Anna went on a long road trip and played an opponent close throughout a Division V regional quarterfinal playoff game.
And for the second consecutive year, a last-second touchdown by the opponent sent the Rockets home for the year.
Elyria Catholic’s Leighton Banjoff scored a 1-yard touchdown run and then ran for a two-point conversion to lift the team to a 42-35 win over the Rockets. Anna, which earned a share of its first Midwest Athletic Conference title in school history this year, finishes 8-3.
Banjoff scored with 19 seconds left to put the Panthers ahead. Elyria Catholic then sacked Anna junior quarterback Bart Bixler on the final play of the game to preserve the win.
It’s the second consecutive year with a disappointing first-round playoff loss for the Rockets, which lost at Middletown Madison 14-10 last year after a last-second touchdown.
Anna took an early 13-0 lead but trailed 20-13 at halftime on Saturday. The Rockets quickly battled back.
Bixler threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Emerson to tie it, then Riley Huelskamp ran for a 1-yard touchdown later in the quarter to put Anna ahead 27-20.
Banjoff scored on a 62-yard run to tie it again before the end of the third. Then early in the fourth, Cameron English threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jaret Frantz to put the Panthers ahead by seven.
Bixler threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Lininger with 45 seconds left, and the Rockets converted a two-point try on a pass to take a 35-34 lead.
Elyria Catholic returned the ensuing kickoff back to Anna’s 40 and moved to the 1-yard line in two plays, which set up Banjoff’s game-winning TD.
The Panthers had 423 yards of offense while Anna had 384. The Rockets had 19 first downs while Elyria Catholic had 15. Each team had one turnover.
Bixler completed 15-of-22 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Huelskamp ran for 69 yards and two TDs on 24 carries while Bixler gained 65 yards on 10 carries.
Emerson led Anna with two receptions for 101 yards while Lininger caught three passes for 40 yards. Justin Murray caught one pass, which was a 4-yard TD reception in the second quarter that put Anna ahead 13-0.
The Rockets will lose eight seniors to graduation. They’ll return most of their roster, including Bixler and Huelskamp.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.