Photo: BRAXTON MILLER VS LAKEWOOD ST EDWARD IN STATE FINAL
As we get set to close out the decade, we look back at the teams from Southwest Ohio that made state title game appearances.
We kickoff with 2010 as two teams from the region advanced to the finals only to return home without titles despite having leads late in each game.
HUBER HEIGHTS WAYNE (11-4)
OPPONENT: LAKEWOOD ST. EDWARD (15-0)
DATE: DEC 4, 2010
STADIUM: FAWCETT STADIUM – CANTON, OHIO
The Warriors had to wait 11 years before making the programs second title game having first appeared in 1999.
Head coach Jay Minton had one of the most dynamic players in the country in senior quarterback Braxton Miller and saw his squad knock off Hilliard Davidson 28-24 to reach the programs second final.
The Warriors would face undefeated Lakewood St. Edward in the title game with both teams tied at seven at the half.
Miller showed why he was one of the top players in the country rushing for two scores and passing for 200 yards and two more scores and things were looking good for the Warriors as they led the Eagles 21-7 with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
Despite the weather conditions (snow), Lakewood found their offensive groove with three straight touchdowns taking a 27-21 after missing the extra point on their third score early in the fourth quarter. Miller responded leading a 15 play, 80-yard drive that saw him score on a two-yard run with 2:34 left in the game and up 28-27.
The Eagles wasted little time running off seven plays for 60-yards ending on a 17-yard touchdown run by Terrell Bates and a good two-point conversion with 1:32 left in the game to go up 35-28.
The Warriors tried to answer but saw their effort end when Miller threw his second interception of the game.
After Wayne, Miller took his game to Ohio State where he was Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2011), a two-time Big Ten Most Valuable Player (2012, 2013) and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (2012, 2013). Miller missed the 2014 season with a shoulder injury but was part of the Buckeyes team that won a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff National Championship that season. The shoulder injury ended his days as a quarterback as he moved to wide receiver in his final season at Ohio State.
The Houston Texans selected Miller in the third round (85th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. After two full seasons with the Texans, Miller was released and has spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and Carolina Panthers. The Panthers released Miller in November, 2019 with an injury settlement.
Photo: MARCUS GRAHAM RECEIVES DII RUNNER-UP TROPHY
OPPONENT: MAPLE HEIGHTS (15-0)
DATE: DEC 3, 2010
STADIUM: PAUL BROWN TIGER STADIUM – MASSILLON, OHIO
Maurice Douglass returned home to Trotwood-Madison to bring pride and glory to the Rams football program. It may have taken longer than he would have liked, but in 2010 he led the Rams to a 34-27 win over Uniontown Lake as the Rams advanced to the finals against an undefeated Maple Heights squad.
Quarterback Marcus Graham was hot in the first quarter of the title game with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Renon Lorenzo and two touchdown runs putting the Rams up 20-7 after one quarter. Things looked to be going the Rams way when Antwan Gilbert returned a punt 45-yards for another score and a 26-7 lead.
However, Maple Heights had one of the most dynamic players in Ohio in future Cincinnati Bearcats standout Shaq Washington. The senior had already thrown a touchdown pass in the first quarter but got going in the second quarter with two more touchdown passes. The Rams entered halftime up 26-19 but Washington was starting to feel he could change the game and added six more points on a nine-yard run putting Maple Heights only down by one point, 26-25 with 8:56 left in the third quarter.
The Rams responded with a 17-yard Graham touchdown pass to AJ Jordan and a 33-25 advantage with 3:41 left in the game. However, Washington was just getting started scoring the next three touchdowns in the game on runs of 4, 2 and 19 yards with the final coming with just 46-seconds left in the game and a 45-33 lead and the Division Two title.
The Rams had several players go on and play at the college level including Bam Bradley (Pittsburgh), Cameron Burrows (Ohio State), AJ Jordan (Wisconsin), Mike McCray (Michigan), and Nicholas Grigsby who signed with Pittsburgh out of high school and was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 by the Los Angeles Rams. Grigsby has also spent time the Baltimore Ravens (2017 & 2019), New England Patriots (2017-2018), Detroit Lions (2018), Green Bay Packers (2019) and currently is set to play for the St. Louis BattleHawks in the XFL.
As we continue looking back at the decade both teams would make multiple trips to state championship games.