In front of 19,767 crazy Ohio High School football fans, the Division I Championship looked to have the makings of a great one. With defending state champion Cincinnati Elder primed to win the schools second title in as many years, the pressure was on from the start. Many fans at the game made the trip from Cincinnati and formed a portable PIT of purple crazies.
Since the Panthers victory in the 2002 DI finals, many fans from around the state felt the Panthers lost just too much talent to repeat. Someone forgot to tell Coach Ramsey and the returning members this fact. With a loss early in the season to an out of state power, the Panthers won another GCL Title and a top seed in the 2002 Region 4 bracket. With wins over Cincinnati Anderson 28-7, Clayton Northmont 33-7, Cincinnati Colerain 24-23 and Dublin Scioto 31-7 the Panthers would face another NE Ohio powerhouse.
Lakewood St. Edward is better known for its wrestling than football history. The Eagles have made the title game in the past only to come up short against Cincinnati based teams. The took the hard way into the finals, but knocked off some of NE Ohio's top football powers along the way. The Eagles started with a 45-14 victory against Strongsville and followed that game with great ones against heavy favorites Warren G. Harding 21-13, Mentor 13-10 OT and Toledo St. John's 44-8. They knew their work was cut out for them with the Panthers.
While most DI schools don't have players going both ways, the Eagles have found the winning edge with some key players and allowed them the chance to win games on both sides of the field. That would cost them against the Panthers. With its big offensive line, the Panthers would wear down the Eagles and the score would prove it.
Each team would have two series during the first quarter. Neither one of them could do anything with them and the game was scoreless after one quarter. Early in the second quarter, Panther quarterback Rob Florian would hit TE Craig Carey with a 7 yard pass for the games first score. The 7-0 lead would stand until the Eagles saw Andy Gardener run from 6 yards out for the Eagles first and only score on the night. The quarter ended with a 7-7 tie and both teams felt they had the upper hand.
In the third quarter the Panthers saw stud running back Bradley Glatthaar start to show why he's one of Ohio's best keep under the radar prospects. Glatthaar would hit pay dirt with a 14 yard run and put the Panthers up to stay for the rest of the night.
Towards the end of the third quarter the Panthers would score again when D.J. Hueneman would kick a 28 yard field goal. After that Glatthaar would take control and score twice in the fourth quarter on runs of 47 and 41 yards. On the night Glatthaar would rush for a new Division I state finals record with 252 yards on 35 carries.
The Panthers defense would hold the Eagles offense to only 170 total yards on 44 plays. The Panthers would gain 405 on 62 plays with 293 yards coming on the ground. On the nigh Glatthaar would score 3 touchdowns to go with his 252 yards rushing. Quarterback Rob Florian would connect on 8 of 13 passes for 112 yards on the night and the Panthers are the first team to win back-to-back DI titles since Canton McKinley did the feat in 1997-1998. During the past two seasons the Panthers have not lost a game to an Ohio team. Their two losses came in 2002 against Louisville Trinity (KY) & 2003 to Warren Central (IN). The last in state game lost by the Panthers came during the 2001 season during the playoffs to Cincinnati St. Xavier. St. X was also the last Ohio team to beat the Panthers during the regular season, also in 2001. Both games were decided by three points each.
2003 DIVISION I STATE CHAMPIONS
PHOTO FROM OHSAA
While I'm sure many don't want to hear this, the last three years have put the Panthers in select company with some of the greatest teams Ohio has ever seen. In the last three seasons the Panthers have a record of 39-4 and have earned the title State Champion.
OPS Football Director Craig Schweiterman selected Bradley Glatthaar as the winner of the OhioPrepScene.com / Moe's Minis DI Championship Game MVP Helmet. Look this week for pictures of Bradley receiving this special one-of-a-kind helmet along with photos from the game.
You can get special made mini helmets or helmets of your favorite team from Moe's Minis, an OhioPrepScene.com partner. To visit Moe's Minis please click on the link provided.