BASCOM - To get where you want to go, sometimes you have to take a detour. No detour, though, may have been longer than the one the Calvert Senecas took. It wasn't the road Calvert was hoping to travel, but it still reached its destination.
A season full of trials and tribulations came full circle for the Senecas. High expectations to begin the year were tempered by a 1-4 start. That start seems like a distant memory after Calvert blanked rival Hopewell-Loudon, 28-0, securing a piece of the final Midland Athletic League Championship.
"I think you learn more from losing. We learned so much early from those losses," said Calvert coach Todd Fox. "The confidence is there. They just know what it takes to do the little things and get it done.
"Tonight was their moment. We kept telling them 'Hey, this is your moment. This is your moment to win the MAL championship.' They learned so many lessons. It's just a great group of gentlemen."
Despite taking the long way, all roads lead back to Tiffin for Calvert. Calvert will host Edon in a first round Division VII Region 24 playoff game next Saturday.
"This season didn't start out like we wanted to," Fox said. "It's a true testament of these guys' personality to come out at the end and still be able to win that last MAL championship. ... We're just happy that we were able to get things done when they counted."
Calvert shares the MAL title with Carey, which rallied to beat Seneca East, 27-26 Friday.
Calvert was seemingly in control for most of the game, but Hopewell-Loudon hung with Calvert deep into the third quarter, trailing just 7-0.
Then Tyler Long took over.
"We were coming out hard," Long said. "We knew what was at stake; we knew what we had to do. All the guys came out fired up and we wanted to win this for our team, for everything we've done this year."
Long rushed 24 times on the night for 185 yards and all four Calvert touchdowns.
In a span of four minutes of game time, Calvert's seven-point lead escalated to a 28-0 advantage.
Calvert's defense set its offense up in good spots and Long took it from there.
Matt Iannantuono pounced on a Chieftain fumble late in the third quarter and soon after, Long plowed in to the end zone from four yards out to give Calvert some breathing room.
Hopewell-Loudon's next possession ended on a bad snap on a punt, where punter Austin Tooker was corralled at the Chieftains own 35.
It's unclear what Long's 40-yard dash time is, but he showed he can run 35 yards in three seconds. That's how much time ticked off the fourth quarter clock from the time the ball was snapped to Long crossing the goal line.
"Everybody did their job," Long said. "I give all the credit to the line. They've been working their butts off and all I had to do was just get the ball and follow my blockers and I'm good to go."
Adam Recker picked off a Derek Runion pass to set Calvert up at the H-L 15. From there, it was Long once again scampering to pay dirt for his fourth and final score of the night.
"We were willing to go three yards at a time and see what happens," Fox said. "But with Tyler and some of our guys, three yards and eventually it'll bust open a big play. We just wanted to pound it at them and see what we can get."
Hopewell-Loudon's best scoring chance came on its first possession of the night. The Chieftains ran off 14 plays and were set up inside Calvert's 10. A holding penalty negated a touchdown and a fourth down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Dan Reineke.
The rest of the night, Calvert's defense kept Hopewell-Loudon from any serious scoring threats.
"Pretty good opening drive. Penalty took a touchdown away from us," said Hopewell-Loudon coach Jeremy Nutter. "One of the strengths of our football team I feel is probably up front and that was definitely the best football team we've played up front. They took some things away and too many penalties, too many turnovers."
While Calvert (6-4) will be getting ready for its third-straight trip to the playoffs, Hopewell-Loudon closes it year at 5-5. Nutter says goodbye to the first class that he's coached all four years at Hopewell-Loudon.
"I thanked the seniors for four years of believing in us, for showing up when it would've been easier not to, for playing a tough sport when it would've been easier not to, for being the young men we needed them to be."