MALVERN - Coming into Saturday night's playoff opener in Malvern, Caldwell Highhad never tasted victory in a postseason game despite winning some 444 games in its more than 100 years of existence.
That all changed in dramatic fashion as Bricker Lori raced 38 yards for the game-winning score with just over a minute to play as the No. 6-seeded Redskins upset the No. 3- seeded Hornets 28-21 in Division VII, Region 25 playoff action to advance to the second round.
With the game tied 21-21, Lori took a pitch from quarterback Tanner Clark on a quarterback option play and beat the Hornet defense around the corner before sprinting untouched into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score.
"We changed our formation so that we would have them outmanned on that side of the field," said Redskins head coach Josh Perkins of the game winning play. "It takes 11(players) to run it, and 11 ran it to perfection and you give 29 (Lori) the ball, you know what he is capable of."
The Skins finished the season by winning their final six games and displayed some confidence early on to take a 14-0 lead over the favored Hornets in the first quarter.
A big 44-yard pass-and-run on third down from Clark to Tanner Baker set up an 11-yard touchdown connection from the same duo to give the black, red and white the early lead while silencing the Hornet crowd as well.
CALDWELL 28 MALVERN 21
First Round Playoff Game at Malvern High School
Caldwell 14 0 7 7 - 28
Malvern 7 0 7 7 - 21
C: Tanner Baker 11 yd pass from Tanner Clark (Jason Allen kick) 8:31
C: Johnny Carpenter 39 yd pass from Clark (Allen kick) :52
M: Mitchell Haasz 18yd pass from Trey Tucci (Anthony Ruegg kick) 8:36
M: Cobin Plessinger 1yd run (Ruegg kick) 6:45
C: Clark 38 yd run (Allen kick) 2:17
M: Haasz 40 yd pass from Tucci (Ruegg kick) 11:30
C: Bricker Lori 36 yd run (Allen kick) 1:10
Malvern (8-3): First downs:13, Rushes-yards: 44-164, Passing yards: 110, Total Yards: 264, Penalties-yards: 3-35, Punts-avg: 4-33, Fumbles-lost: 0-0, Turnovers:0.
Caldwell (9-2) First downs: 14, Rushes-yards: 37-214, Passing yards: 140, Total yards: 354, Penalties-yards:4-35, Punts-avg: 2-38.5, Fumbles-lost: 0-0, Turnovers:0.
Malvern: Rushing: Plessinger 29-105 (TD), Tucci 13-57, Ruegg 3-4. Passing: Tucci 6-11-110 yds. (2TD), Receiving: Haasz 4-79 (2TD), Jalen Graves 1-22, Plessinger 1-7.
Caldwell: Rushing: Lori 18-116 (TD), Clark 19-98(TD), Passing: Clark 7-13-140yds, (2TD). Receiving: Baker 5-85 (TD), Carpenter 1-39 (TD), Lori 1-14.
Next game Caldwell vs. Shadyside in Zanesville Saturday at 7 p.m.
Caldwell struck again with less than a minute to play in the opening quarter when the left-handed throwing Clark hit Johnny Carpenter in stride, and Carpenter raced 39 yards into the end zone for the 14-0 lead.
The Redskins knew coming into the game that if they were to have any chance at victory they would need to contain All-Ohio running back Cobin Plessinger.
Plessinger came into the game with 1,779 and 21 touchdowns on the season while rushing for a 100 yards or better in every single Hornet game.
The Skins defense was up to the task in the first half as it limited Plessinger to just 64 yards on 16 carries.
With the Redskin defense keying on Plessinger, Hornet quarterback Trey Tucci took things into his own hands as he found Mitchell Haasz in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to cut the Caldwell lead in half.
"Our game plan coming in was if they are going to beat us they are going to have to beat us passing because we are not going to let them run one into the end zone," said Perkins. "They got one from short yardage later on but our kids did a great job."
Malvern opened the second half with a 65-yard, 12-play drive sparked by a 22-yard pass from Tucci to Jalen Graves with Plessinger finally striking pay dirt from a yard out to knot the game at 14-14.
The tie would last all of four minutes as Clark put the Redskins back in front with a 38-yard keeper down the sidelines for a 21-14 Redskin lead.
"We got the passing game going early on and I think that helped us break a couple of big plays," said Clark of his run.
The Hornets came charging right back as the combination of Tucci and Haasz struck again this time on a 40-yard touchdown pass to tie the game once again at 21-21.
Both teams exchanged punts before Caldwell took over possession with 2:44 to play in the game and 56 yards to go for the win.
Lori opened the drive with an 11-yard run and after Clark was sacked for a loss and then fired an incomplete pass, a 14-yard screen pass to Lori moved the ball to the 38 to set up the game winning play.
Clark took the snap and sprinted to his right before pitching the ball to Lori who took it the rest of the way and when Jason Allen made good on the extra point the Skins were a minute away from the biggest win in school history.
Malvern took over on its own 36-yard line and after Tucci's first pass fell incomplete, Caldwell defenders Austin Schockling and Kameron Rayner brought down Tucci for a sack and an 11-yard loss.
Tucci threw another incomplete pass on third-and-long and then attempted to run on fourth down only to be brought down well short of the first down marker by the Skins defense to seal the victory.
"It means everything to be able to get this win for the team, the coaches and the community," said Carpenter.
"We've had a lot of players and coaches that have made the playoffs and haven't been able to win the game so its great to bring it back to them because they deserve it."
Lori finished the game with 116 yards on 18 carries, his sixth straight 100-yard rushing performance, while Clark rushed for 98 yards on 19 touches while completing 7-of-13 pass attempts for 140 yards and the two touchdowns.
Defensively the Redskin defense limited Plessinger to 105 yards on 29 carries, his lowest rushing total in a single game this season.
Senior Andrew Minosky and Rayner led the Redskin defense as they were involved in 23 and 20 tackles, respectively.
"Plessinger is definitely an all-state running back who is going to have a bright future ahead of him," said Perkins. "I told them to play like an all-state defense and we sure did tonight."
The Redskins will play undefeated and No. 2-seeded Shadyside at 7 p.m. Saturday night in New Philadelphia.