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No. 2 Whitmer rallies for 32-29 win over Olentangy

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader breaks tackles as he runs with the ball during Friday's second round playoff game against Olentangy at Tiffin.

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    Olentangy's Jace Middleton takes a high snap during Friday's playoff game against Whitmer in Tiffin.

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    Olentangy's Riley Bruening runs the ball against Whitmer.

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    Whitmer's Luke Beadle and PaSean Wimberly bring down Olentangy's Adam Primm.

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    Whitmer football coach Ken Winters has a word with a referee during Friday's game against Olentangy in Tiffin.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader looks back as he runs the ball during Friday's regional semifinal against Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader celebrates after a touchdown against Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader celebrates a touchdown against Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Friday's regional semifinal against Olentangy in Tiffin.

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    Snow flurries come down during Friday's game between Whitmer and Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Dylan Houghton (99) and Liam McDonald pump up the crowd during Friday's game against Olentangy.

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    The Whitmer defense swarms Olentangy's Riley Bruening.

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    Whitmer's Eric Filby kicks a field goal to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead in Friday's regional semifinal against Olentangy at Tiffin. The Panthers won the game in the final seconds, 32-29.

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    Whitmer players celebrate with fans after beating Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Bryant Hayes Jr. (90) celebrates with teammates after Friday's playoff win in Tiffin.

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    Whitmer's Cavon Butler celebrates a defensive stop.

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    Whitmer's PaSean Wimberly points to who he's defending during Friday's playoff game in Tiffin.

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    Whitmer's Sam Stickels finds running room during Friday's regional semifinal against Olentangy.

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    A pass goes incomplete to Whitmer's Patrick Mappe.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader, back, pats teammate Sam Stickels (20) on the shoulder after a touchdown against Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader breaks away from an Olentangy defender.

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    Whitmer players celebrate Friday's win over Olentangy.

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    Whitmer's Bryant Hayes Jr. (90) celebrates with teammates after Friday's 32-29 win over Olentangy put the Panthers in the regional championship game.

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    Whitmer's Jasean Rader catches a touchdown pass during Friday's playoff game against Olentangy.

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Whitmer's Jasean Rader breaks tackles as he runs with the ball during Friday's second round playoff game against Olentangy at Tiffin.

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TIFFIN – In what will go down as one of the most dramatic wins in the storied tradition of Whitmer football, the No. 2 ranked Panthers rallied with two touchdowns over the final three minutes of a Division I regional semifinal to stun Lewis Center Olentangy on Friday night.

Whitmer authored a remarkable fourth-quarter rally to knock off the Braves 32-29 at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.

The Panthers (12-0) trailed by five points with 52 seconds left, but drove into scoring position engineered with remarkable poise by sophomore QB Riley Keller. With just nine seconds remaining, Keller connected once again with senior Jasean Rader on a clinching 10-yard TD pass as the Panthers earned a stunning victory in freezing cold conditions.

“We knew we had to stay composed,” Keller said. “It's just such a good feeling to know we can drive down the field like that and get that last-second touchdown. This is the most dramatic game I've ever been a part of.”

A 42-yard pass play from Keller to Patrick Mappe, who had a game-high four catches for 134 yards, set up the decisive score. Rader, who rushed for a team-high 46 yards, caught TD passes of 7 and 10 yards over the final three minutes.

VIDEO: Whitmer-Olentangy

“Our coach talks to us about playing all four quarters and that it's not over 'till the clock said zero. We just kept playing,” Rader said. “Patrick made a great play down the field and got us in the red zone and we finished it off.”

Whitmer trailed by 10 late in the second quarter, seven points at the half, and three after three quarters. Whitmer, which lost two years ago to Olentangy (8-4) on the same field at the same point in the tournament, advances to the regional final next Friday against Olentangy Liberty.

“These kids don't quit,” Whitmer coach Ken Winters said. “If we have time on the clock, we're confident we can come back. This is the greatest win I've been a part of – to come back twice is unbelievable.”

But on fourth and one at the Whitmer 47, a gutsy call by Olentangy led to a 47-yard TD pass from Riley Bruening to Ian Drummond. Bruening faked the hand off and then found a wide open Drummond behind the Whitmer linebackers and he went in untouched for a 29-24 Braves lead with 52 seconds left.

Olentangy coach Mark Solis said he felt his team might have left too much time on the clock.

“They made a few more big plays than we did,” Solis said. “Whitmer is one of the most highly regarded programs in northwest Ohio. We respect them. I'm not in to moral victories, but I feel like we should have won. We played well for 47 minutes. This will sting.”

Whitmer had taken a 24-23 lead with 3:02 left in regulation on a 7-yard TD strike from Keller to Rader. A 25-yard pass play from Keller to Mappe set up the score.

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Whitmer's Jasean Rader breaks tackles as he runs with the ball during Friday's second round playoff game against Olentangy at Tiffin.

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Rader said the winning TD play is called slant, H-corner.

“I'm on my own island so I can get man-to-man coverage and that's what it was,” Rader said. “It felt so good. We put the dagger in them.”

Keller completed 12 of 27 passes for 198 yards and three TDs.

“I just try to keep my composure,” Keller said. “We can use this going forward. We have a lot of confidence.”

Whitmer trailed 23-17 with 8:17 left when Rader came up with a 54-yard kickoff return. But the Panthers, who just missed connecting on a long TD pass play, went backward and had to punt. A key pass break-up by Sam Stickels then forced on Olentangy punt with 5:31 left.

Whitmer fell behind 17-3 with 2:37 left in the first half in cold conditions with occasional flurries. But the Panthers answered with a touchdown just before the end of the second quarter to pull within seven points at the break.

Whitmer tied the game on a 57-yard TD strike from Keller to Mappe with 6:03 left in the third quarter. Mappe was wide open down the far sideline and waited for the ball before catching it and sprinting in for the tying score.

Olentangy responded with an 60-yard drive that took more than four minutes off the clock and made it pay off with a 33-yard field goal from Josh Petrone to take a 20-17 lead with 1:07 left in the third quarter. Two big unsportsmanlike penalties cost Whitmer on the Braves' next drive. Olentangy then took a 23-17 lead with a 34-yard field goal with 8:17 left in regulation.

Winters said he played the final play of the loss to the Braves two years ago on a loop in the locker room all week.

“I asked them what they were going to do to not let it happen again and it's poetic justice that we get it right at the end and it's our sideline was going crazy,” Winters said.

Olentangy finished with a 423-281 edge in total yards. Bruening completed 14 of 29 passes for 225 yards. Ali Iverson rushed for a game-high 114 yards.

Rader had 128 return yards, including a long of 60.

“After we lost to them as sophomores, the seniors wanted to come out and fight. We dug down deep,” he said. “This gives us a huge boost of confidence. We feel like we can play with anyone.”

Contact Mark Monroe at mmonroe@theblade.com419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.

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