By ANDY WOLF
WORCESTER, Mass. — Fifty-three seconds.
That’s all it took for Assumption College to answer three second-half scores by a University of Findlay football team playing catch up.
All three touchdowns came from the big-play capability of speedster Deonte Harris, two via kickoff returns, to seal a 45-26 victory in the Division II Super Region One semifinal at the Multi-Sport Stadium in Worcester, Massachusetts on Saturday.
“First off, congratulations to Assumption,” Findlay coach Rob Keys said. “Heck of a football team. You can definitely see this program is built the right way.
“Coach (Bob) Chesney, hats off to him and his program. They were the better team today.”
The Oilers finish their season at 10-3 overall, the most wins since completing a 14-0 season in 1997 en route to winning the NAIA national title.
“I liked the way we played when we were down, kept fighting,” Keys said. “It’s unfortunate we’re on the wrong side of the win column.”
The Greyhounds (11-1) advanced to their first regional final to meet host and top-seeded Indiana (Pa.). Indiana beat West Chester 44-10 Saturday.
Harris, a 5-foot-6, 170-pound junior, entered the game with six return touchdowns, five via punts.
The Oilers had him bottled up in the first half, sometimes sacrificing field position with short kicks.
But Harris broke free numerous times to score all four of his touchdowns in the second half.
He finished with 11 touches for 362 all-purpose yards.
“I was impressed on film, too,” Keys said. “I thought we did a really good job neutralizing him in the first half. He had one return for 15 yards.
“He’s a special player. He almost single-handedly beat us today.”
Harris took two passes of 39 and 76 yards from Marc Monks for touchdowns before returning two kickoffs for 99 and 80 yards.
His final three scores spanned 21, 16 and 16 seconds after three UF scores.
The quick responses resulted in Assumption only possessing the ball for 4:20 in the second half.
“That’s what you hope for,” Chesney said. “As soon as they start to get a little bit, you hope to take it all back from them and take it all right away.
“That doesn’t allow them to really get going.”
Eleven first-half UF penalties for 89 yards prevented the fast start Keys had hoped for.
Each penalty was crucial in stalling an offensive drive or allowing Assumption to sustain one.
The Oilers fell behind 10-3 by halftime and spent the second half trying to come back.
Assumption opened the third quarter with a five-play touchdown drive capped by Harris’ first touchdown on a 39-yard pass. He turned the corner down the left sideline after a crossing route.
UF finally put together a touchdown, methodically moving downfield with Daouda Sylla scoring from 1 yard out on the 10th play.
Sylla, fresh off a career-high 205 yards in last week’s playoff win over Shepherd, ran for 83 of UF’s 100 yards — a season-low in team production.
“When you don’t establish the run game, it does put a little emphasis on the pass,” Keys said.
Findlay still found a way to rack up 518 yards.
Rhys Gervais threw for 386 of those yards on 37 of 57 attempts.
“When the score is a little bit lopsided like you saw, you’re able to play into their hand,” Gervais said.
His touchdown passes to Airion Kosak (23 yards) and Jason Moore (10 yards) came in the fourth quarter and pulled Findlay within one score of Assumption each time.
Harris answered the first with his 99-yard return and, eight minutes later, broke off his 80-yarder after a 40-yard Jacob Allton field goal made it a 31-26 game.
But Carlins Platel picked off a Gervais pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to seal the game.
Kosak grabbed nine passes for 120 yards while Moore had six for 61.
Isaac Miles led UF with six tackles.
“If you look at the three losses — all three losses were very, very similar,” Keys said. “Slow starts, not putting points on the board early and giving up the big plays.
“That’s not a formula for success. It took us out of our game. We’re not playing the way I want us to play — kind of the ball control, mix in the run and pass, and play solid defense.”
Findlay 0 3 7 16 — 26
Assumption 3 7 14 21 — 45
AC — FG Tracy 50
AC — Oxsen 2 run (Tracy kick)
UF — FG Allton 23
AC — Harris 39 pass from Monks (Tracy kick)
UF –Sylla 1 run (Allton kick)
AC — Harris 76 pass from Monks (Tracy kick)
UF –Kosak 23 pass from Gervais (Allton kick)
AC — Harris 99 kickoff return (Tracy kick)
UF — Moore 10 pass from Gervais (kick blocked)
UF –FG Allton 40
AC — Harris 80 kickoff return (Tracy kick)
AC — Platel 28 interception return (Tracy kick)
First Downs 27 12
Rushes-yards 34-100 23-10
Passing Yards 418 227
Comp-Att-Int 38-58-2 13-23-0
Punts-Avg. 4-39 4-38.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 13-119 6-64
rushing — Findlay, Sylla 24-83, Campbell 5-15, Gervais 5-2. Assumption, Oxsen 12-24, Grant 1-3, Exum-Strong 1-3, team 1-(minus-1), Santos 3-(minus-3), Williams 3-(minus-5), Tobey 2-(minus-11).
passing — Findlay, Gervais 37-57-2–386, Moore 1-1-0–32. Assumption, Monks 4-5-0–146, Tobey 9-18-0–81.
receiving — Findlay, Kosak 9-120, Moore 6-61, Boucher 7-60, Stuffel 4-50, Campbell 2-43, Ogletree 3-42, Hill 4-35, Allton 2-9, Sylla 1-(minus-2). Assumption, Harris 8-168, Grant 2-31, Oxsen 2-19, Blake 1-9.