It was a historic night in Mount Healthy football as the Owls picked up their first playoff win in school history. They beat the Turpin Spartans on the road in the opening round of the Ohio Division II, Region 8 playoffs 26-17.
In just his second season as head coach Arvie Crouch has lead the program into unchartered territories. One year after making the playoffs only to be ousted in the first round 41-6 by Trotwood-Madison, Crouch and his team had a goal of not just making the postseason this year, but actually winning a game. Following Friday's effort they now have a new goal –winning another.
"I can remember the first day I walked into Mount Healthy's weight room and there was nothing that said Mount Healthy in there," Crouch recalled. "We just wanted to install an identity with our kids and along with that came pride and hard work."
Mount Healthy (9-2) identified themselves as a team to be reckoned with this post-season by displaying a physical defense and an explosive ground attack as they knocked off a banged-up Spartans' squad that was playing without several key offensive players, including starting quarterback Eric Martin.
Owls' quarterback Denzel Larkin escaped consistent pressure and came up with some huge plays throughout the game. The senior finished with 141 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries while completing three of his seven passes for 31 yards.
--Postgame: Arvie Crouch, Mount Healthy
--Postgame: Denzel Larkin, Mount Healthy
--Postgame: Demon Jackson, Mount Healthy
--Highlight: Larkin 4-yard RuTD
"He's not a vocal guy, but he plays the game well and has great vision," Crouch said of his quarterback. "He's a tremendous athlete."
Defense was the story early on though as neither team was able to dent the scoreboard in the opening quarter. Both teams had trouble holding on to the football in the second quarter. Demond Jackson came up with three interceptions during the quarter alone for the Owls, including one that led to the game's first touchdown, a 9-yard run by Larkin to give Mount Healthy a 7-0 lead at the break.
Turpin would fight back though. They got a big boost when Cole Hazenfield took the opening kickoff of the second half 65 yards. They would have to settle for a 31-yard Shane Kelly field goal, but the Spartans were on the board.
Mount Healthy would answer quickly as Larkin got to the outside and turned on the afterburners as he took at 59-yard run to the house. A missed extra-point though would leave their lead at 13-3.
The lead would be cut to three a few minutes later as running back Will Stocker, who was playing through two injuries of his own, scored from a yard out. After the Owls went three-and-out on their next possession, Turpin got the board again when Brogan Orcutt pulled in a 49-yard pass from Conner Jansen to give Turpin their first lead at 17-13 with 11:50 to go in the game.
Larkin bailed out Mount Healthy when he scored on a 4-yard run on the next series. Once again though, the PAT was not converted leaving Turpin down just two points.
The Spartans couldn't muster much in their next drive and opted to punt from midfield with less than six minutes to play and take their chances on defense. Mount Healthy managed to get the ball just short of Turpin territory before their drive hit a snag. Crouch decided to go for a fake punt to put the game away, but Turpin stopped it and got the ball back with a chance to win the game and with great field position. One play later Jansen threw his fourth interception as Tyrell Hines came away with the turnover.
Jemiah Tolbert sealed the deal when he broke through the Spartans' line nearly untouched for a 25-yard touchdown with a 1:10 left in the game.
"The biggest difference is the line is stepping up and blocking good and making us look good," Larkin said of the Owls' recent success. "Our senior class finally stepped up and won a playoff game."
Stocker finished his career with a 67-yard effort on 19 carries. Jansen completed 9-of-21 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted four times.
Mount Healthy held Turpin to just 87 yards and 2.4 yards per carry. Senior defensive lineman Joel Heath had a pair of sacks in the win.
Next up for Mount Healthy is Kings, who beat Tecumseh on Friday night in its opening game.