XENIA — A difficult ending to accept for one of the most storied teams in Xenia football history.
Little Miami kicked a 32-yard field goal in double overtime to send their sideline into a frenzy and upset an undefeated Buccaneers squad 27-24 at Doug Adams Stadium in the opening round of the Division II playoffs.
Overtime started with the Panthers making a kick from 29 yards to set up Xenia’s turn with the ball. The Bucs were stopped in three plays without getting a first down, but Nate Fellie made a field goal from 35 yards to extend the game.
Xenia’s offense suffered a holding penalty on its first play of the second period and backed themselves up to the 30. Tremell Wright got his fingertips on a third down pass thrown into the endzone but wasn’t able to corral it, and Gavin McManus was sacked on fourth down to turn the ball over with no points added.
Little Miami, which was the No. 15-seed, ran quarterback Grant Maupin three times up the middle for five total yards to set up the winning kick.
“I love my team,” Xenia head coach Maurice Harden said. “I love us as far as our ability to just keep fighting. We fought in double overtime to win that game, and it says a lot about how much fight we have.”
McManus threw for 261 yards on 23 of 35 passing and a touchdown in the game to lead the Xenia offense. Wright had 11 catches for 123 yards, while Juan Underwood caught seven balls for 75 yards.
Little Miami (4-7) started as hot as you can get, completing a wide open 67-yard touchdown pass down the Xenia sideline behind its secondary to take a 7-0 lead on the opening play from scrimmage.
Xenia (10-1) quickly responded using a 30-yard completion by Underwood, followed by Trei’Shaun Sanders running 19 yards up the middle to tie the score at seven just 71 seconds into the game.
Both sides slowed down from there and traded fourth down stops before the Panthers got back on the scoreboard. Maupin avoided a pass rush by the Bucs and escaped up the middle of the field for a 25-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Sanders ran for seven carries for 26 yards before he was injured midway through the second quarter and did not return to the game. Xenia’s run game struggled afterward as Little Miami loaded the line of scrimmage and held the Bucs to a season-low 53 total yards on the ground.
“It put a damper on our run game and forced us to win the one-on-one matchups on the perimeter,” Harden said. “In the second half, we did a much better job of that.”
Xenia got back in the redzone twice before halftime, but fumbled at LM’s 17 and was sacked on a fourth and two play at LM’s 3.
The Bucs came out of halftime strong with a kickoff return across midfield and would tie the game on its opening possession of the third quarter on a touchdown run by Elijah Johnson.
Another fumble later in the third would give the Panthers field position at Xenia’s 33. A fourth and one touchdown run by Maupin put them back ahead by seven.
Still leading 21-14 midway through the fourth, the Panthers missed a 32-yard field goal wide left. Xenia on the second play of it’s ensuing drive used a 56-yard catch and run by Wright, coupled with a personal foul penalty called on Little Miami, to get into the Panthers’ redzone.
Facing fourth and 1 in the game’s final minutes, McManus connected with Jackson Tate short of the goalline before he powered through defenders for a four-yard score to tie the game with 4:23 left.
Xenia’s defense started the next drive with back to back sacks to help set its offense up with good field position, but both teams would trade punts. Little Miami had a final chance in regulationo and got into Xenia territory using a pass play of 28 yards, but sacks by Jamell Smith and Jaxen Lewis helped back up the Panthers up and forced a 46-yard field goal kick with 11 seconds left in regulation. The attempt barely made it to the endzone to send the game to overtime.
From there the Xenia defense continued its strong play, but the short field position used in overtime proved to be the deciding factor in what turned into a disappointing end for the Buccaneers.
Lewis compiled 13 total tackles and two sacks to lead the Bucs defense. Smith also made 11 tackles to go with 1.5 sacks and Ronnie Butler had 10 tackles and one sack.
Xenia’s season ends after winning the Miami Valley League championship, getting the No. 2-seed on its fourth straight trip to the playoffs, and completing its first 10-0 regular season since 1902. Those are achievements which will always live in Xenia football lore.
“This group was special,” Harden said. “The fact they were able to accomplish what they have is a very great feat and we’re thankful for that and appreciative of their efforts. All they did was lay that foundation that we need for us to have success. We got a lot to be proud of, and we’re frustrated right now, but we have a lot to be proud of for sure.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.