Just be better for one night.
Clyde coach Ryan Carter concedes if his team played Toledo Central Catholic 10 times, they'd probably lose nine of them.
"I told our kids, we had to beat them on one night. Just one night," Carter said. "We only had to beat them on one night, and tonight was our night."
The Fliers put together the biggest upset in the state playoffs to date Friday night, stunning the defending Division II state champion Fighting Irish 42-41 in the Div. III Region 8 championship game at Bowling Green State University's Doyt Perry Stadium.
With the win, No. 12-ranked Clyde (12-1) advances to the state semifinals for the fourth time in program history, where it will face No. 14 Trotwood-Madison (10-2) next Friday at a site to be determined. No. 2 Toledo C.C. finishes 12-1.
In a back-and-forth game, the Fliers trailed 41-35 with 3:27 left, as Toledo Central Catholic's kicker hooked the PAT just to the left, opening the door for Clyde to take the lead. Flier quarterback Tim Hoppe and receiver Derek Gray had no trouble taking advantage.
On the second play after taking possession at their own 26, Hoppe found Gray in stride, and the senior receiver was able to shake a defender and bolt up the right sideline for a 74-yard touchdown pass-and-catch. Austin Baker's all-important PAT was good, and the Fliers had a 42-41 lead with 3:05 left.
But the Fighting Irish also had plenty of time.
Taking over at the 35, Notre Dame recruit DeShone Kizer guided the Irish down the field from the quarterback position, but eventually TCC was faced with a third-and-7 at the Clyde 9 with inside of two minutes remaining. Like he had done all game, Kizer was able to roll out and keep the play alive for several seconds, then made a break for it and ran up the middle and broke a tackle near the Clyde 5.
Kizer kept fighting for yards, but as he was near the 3-yard line, took a shot from a pair of defenders and the ball came loose, and the Fliers recovered at their own 4 with 52 seconds left.
But it wasn't over, as the Irish still had all three timeouts, meaning the Fliers needed a first down or Kizer would get one more chance with decent field position. Faced with a third-and-12 from the 2, Hoppe went for Gray again, but the Irish were flagged for defensive holding, setting up a third-and-2 with 40 seconds left.
After an initial standup at the line of scrimmage, running back Damien Coburn was able to get the six feet needed, allowing Hoppe to get in victory formation for the thrilling upset.
"Our kids just laid it all out on the line, and have since day one," Carter said. "It's one of those things where you can't underestimate the heart. Our kids fought to the very end. It was a great win for this team and our entire town. Our kids believed, and tonight was no different for them."
Perhaps setting the tone for the night, Clyde took advantage of field position and jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. After a punt was deflected, the Fliers took possession at the TCC 31. On the game's fourth play and Clyde's first from scrimmage, Hoppe found Blake Miller across the middle for the 31-yard TD, and the first of Baker's six PATs was good for a 7-0 lead just 1:23 into the game.
After another three-and-out, Clyde took advantage of another poor punt with field position at the TCC 39. Seven plays later, Hoppe found Gray on a post pattern for a 22-yard scoring strike to make it 14-0 with 7:41 left in the opening quarter.
Central Catholic eventually tied the game on a 3-yard run by Paul Moses with 9:01 left in the first half, but then two plays later, Hoppe found Coburn on an underneath route, and Coburn was able to get to the corner on a 67-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-14 with 8:04 left in the half.
With just 34 seconds left in the half, Kizer connected with Jeremiah Braswell on a 3-yard scoring play to tie the game at 21, which is where it appeared things were headed into halftime.
But rather than a take a knee or play it safe, Carter called for a pass attempt, and on the first play on ensuing possession, Gray was again able to beat his man and got loose for a 58-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half for a 28-21 lead.
"We thought our skilled guys could make plays, and they did," Carter said. "Going into the week, we thought our skilled guys could win. We told them if they could win, we'd score points. Our skilled guys won."
Gray caught eight passes for 228 yards and 3 TDs, including what proved to be the eventual game winner with 3:05 left.
"All I was thinking running up the sidelines was to give ourselves the lead," Gray said of the 74-yard score. "That's what I was able to do. We knew we had some one-on-one coverage that we could beat them with. I just made a catch and took off as fast as I could."
A 9-play, 67-yard drive that saw Paul Moses score again on a 3-yard run with 10:25 left gave the Irish their first lead of the game at 35-28, but Clyde again refused to go away, countering with a 6-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a 2-yard scoring run by Coburn with 8:49 left to set up the wild finish.
"The effort we gave was just incredible, and you can't put into words how much heart means sometimes," Carter said. "That's a very good team and a great program we were able to beat tonight."
The high school basketball season will start next Friday night, but Carter — the boys hoops head coach — and Gray, a four-year player at point guard, will be instead trying to help get the football team back to the state championship game for a third time.
"Not quite yet on basketball. I'll be ready for it when it's time," Carter said. "My point guard played great tonight ... but I think I'm going to have to call him a wide receiver after tonight."