By Scott Halasz
XENIA — In about 15 seconds Friday, Xenia’s homecoming football game went from promising upset to disappointing defeat.
That’s about how long it took Springboro’s Keegan Brown to corral a tipped Xenia pass and return it 90 yards for a touchdown and turn a shaky lead into a comfortable margin as the Panthers topped Xenia 52-26 at Doug Adams Stadium.
That pick-six came as it appeared the Bucs were poised to cut into a 31-20 Springboro lead early in the second half. But as QB Danny Naylor scrambled and tried to fling the ball to a receiver, it was tipped and fell into the hands of Brown, who raced down the sidelines virtually untouched for a decisive score.
Making matters worse was that the Bucs lost Naylor to an injury on the play. And as the lanky QB exited the field, so did any realistic chance of Xenia mounting a serious comeback.
“When we lost Danny, everything changed,” Coach Bob DeLong said. Sophomore Jonny Shampton Jr., the backup QB, gets limited snaps because he also plays defense.
“He was our free safety,” DeLong said. “I thought we went in and did a good job. We just have a limited package.”
Early on it seemed as though Shampton could get some mop-up QB minutes as Xenia had a 13-0 lead before some fans had a chance to find seats.
Xenia (3-4, 1-1 GWOC South) took the opening kick and drove 80 yards with a mix of slants and timely runs, culminating in a seven-yard pass from Naylor to Rocky James for a 7-0 lead. Then on Springboro’s third play, Ryan Johnson jumped a receiver’s route, picked off a pass and scurried 42 yards in front of the Springboro bench for a TD. The extra point was blocked, however Xenia still led.
But up-tempo Springboro (6-1, 2-0 GWOC South) scored 17 unanswered points on a pair of touchdowns and a field goal. Naylor and James again connected for a TD — a 13-yard pass — to give Xenia a 20-17 lead late in the second quarter. Springboro scored with 32 seconds left and appeared poised to lead 24-20 at halftime. But following an interception, Springboro scored on a well-defended 33-yard pass to take a 31-20 halftime lead.
“Three plays in that first half or that half was a stellar half,” DeLong said.
Springboro had the second half’s first possession, but Shampton Jr., picked off a pass to set up the interception-TD-injury sequence.
“I kept hearing (the team) say we were in it just a minute ago,” DeLong said. “That’s a tough swing.”
Unofficially Naylor finished with 117 passing yards before leaving the game. Unofficially Shampton led Xenia with 64 rushing yards. He was sitting on negative 6 yards until scrambling for 70 on a pass play that didn’t develop. He was hurt on the play and gave way to freshman Warren Mahar.
James finished with eight catches for 79 yards, unofficially. Freshman Sincere Wells scored his first varsity touchdown on a five-yard run late in the game.
“I thought our guys battled all night, we just weren’t good enough,” DeLong said.
Score by Quarters
Springboro 10 21 7 14 — 52
Xenia 13 7 0 6 — 26
X — Rocky James 7 pass from Naylor (Bond kick)
X — Ryan Johnson 42 interception return (kick failed)
S — Charlie Kuhbander 21 field goal
S — Elijah Cunningham 54 run (Kuhbander kick)
S — Dylan Jones 1 run (Kuhbander kick)
X — James 13 pass from Naylor (Bond kick)
S — Jones 7 pass from Cunningham (Kuhbander kick)
S — Nick Kovacs 33 pass from Cunningham (Kuhbander kick)
S — Brown 90 interception return (Kuhbander kick)
S — Alex Feldman 20 pass from Cunningham (Kuhbander kick)
S — Jones 20 run (Kuhbander kick)
X — Sincere Wells 5 run (pass failed)