8/13/2017 2:28:00 AM Patriots season ends in second-round playoff loss Polar Bears pull away in second half to win 26-12 over Patriots
The Patriots defense was stingy against the run, as they held the Polar Bears to just minus-29 rushing yards in a second-round playoff game on Saturday at Oak Hill's Davis Stadium. The Patriots, however, crumbled in the second half, losing to Highland Park 26-12.
OAK HILL - The Jackson County Patriots saw their season come to an end in the second round of the Ohio Football League playoffs on Saturday night, as they came up short, 26-12 against the Highland Park Polar Bears at Oak Hill's Davis Stadium.
The Patriots (11-1), who were ranked the top team in the OFL heading into the playoffs, had trouble defending the Polar Bears' passing game, especially in the second half, and they were unable to find enough offense to give themselves a chance.
The defense, however, stood the test, at least in the first half, with three takeaways, while holding the Polar Bears to minus-29 yards rushing and just seven yards of total offense.
But this would hardly be the cakewalk the Patriots had in last week's rout of the Columbus War Eagles.
The miraculous play of this year's defensive unit, which fueled their playoff run crumbled in the second half.
Kenny Jackson, the Polar Bears' quarterback threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns during the final two quarters to help his team pull away from a slim 6-2 lead at halftime.
Jackson threw for more yards against a struggling Patriots secondary than any other team this season, as he completed 16 of 33 passes for 244 yards, including a pair of interceptions.
One of those picks occurred in the final three-minutes of the game, resulting in the Patriots only touchdown on Nikko Simpson's 105-yard return.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots took the lead on a blocked punt attempt by Keith Marks in the second quarter. The ball bounced back into the Patriots end zone and was recovered by Sean McGhee of the Polar Bears for a safety and a 2-0 Jackson County lead with 9:12 left.
Highland Park went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, but this time, Marks got off an excellent punt which was downed at the Patriots' one-yard line.
On the next play, Chris Mavis fumbled and the Polar Bears recovered at the 2. Three plays later, Demarco Gulley went in from the 1 for a 6-2 lead after the two-point conversion try failed.
The Patriots had a chance to cut it to one just be the half, but Justin Mullins' 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Meanwhile, Jackson and wide-receiver Kameron Pleasant were primarily responsible for the Polar Bears' rout in the second half, as the two hooked up twice for touchdowns, including a 36-yard pass on their opening possession of the third quarter for a 12-6 lead.
Then Mullins' pulled the Patriots within seven-points on a 25-yard field goal with 1:20 left.
However, Jackson hooked up with Pleasant on the Polar Bears' next drive for a 41-yard touchdown and threw for the two-point conversion to make it 20-5 with 13:58 left in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots went three-and-out on its next two drives and Jackson made them pay with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jack Wallace to give the Polar Bears a 26-5 lead.
Jackson County turned the ball over on the first play of its ensuing drive and Jackson hit Pleasant for a 33-yard gain to the Patriots 1-yard line. But on second-and-goal from the three, Simpson intercepted Jackson in the end zone and returned it 105 yard for the score and Mullins kicked the extra-point to make it 26-12 with 2:50 left.
The Patriots got the ball back 11-seconds later after the Polar Bears fumbled. They were just 45-yards away from making it a one possession game, but the Patriots turned the ball over on downs after consecutive incomplete passes by Tanner Taylor on third and fourth downs and Jackson ran the final 1:46 off the clock with three straight kneel downs to end the game.
Taylor threw for 72 yards with one interception for the Patriots, while the running game was non-existent, as they were limited to just minus-9 yards for the game.
While the game proved disappointing for the Patriots and their fans, it marked the first time in the history of the program they were honored with home field advantage throughout the playoffs after going undefeated during the regular season.