Football: Harvest Prep Warriors come up short in Division V state semifinal

·3 min read

After senior wide receiver Artrell Saunders transferred to Harvest Prep during the offseason, he learned quickly what it meant to be a part of what he calls a “winning program.”

Saunders, who joined the Warriors football team after previously playing for Franklin Heights, wound up being a key contributor during Harvest Prep’s run to a Division V state semifinal.

“It’s a big transition and I just feel like they accepted me and love me,” Saunders said. “They’ve taken me as their brother and I thank the coaching staff.”

Saunders, who missed four regular-season games with a foot injury, had two receptions in the Warriors’ 28-22 loss to Versailles in a state semifinal Nov. 27 at London as his team finished 10-3 overall.

Harvest Prep's Matthew Austin celebrates his touchdown catch with Justin Bautista (6) during a Division V state semifinal against Versailles on Nov. 27 at London. The Warriors lost 28-22.
Harvest Prep's Matthew Austin celebrates his touchdown catch with Justin Bautista (6) during a Division V state semifinal against Versailles on Nov. 27 at London. The Warriors lost 28-22.

It was the second time in three years that Harvest Prep’s season ended in a state semifinal.

The Warriors were the second seed for the Region 19 playoffs and beat fifth-seeded Wheelersburg 20-17 in the final Nov. 20 at Waverly.

Then in the state semifinal, Versailles scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to break a 14-all tie and held off a rally attempt to advance to its first state final since 2004. The Tigers will play three-time defending state champion Kirtland, which has won 55 consecutive games, for the title at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The Warriors lose an eight-player senior class that was led by running back Jaylen Jennings, who was held to 42 yards rushing by Versailles but finished with 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games. The Bowling Green commit missed four regular-season games with an injury.

Harvest Prep went 12-2 and was a Division VII state semifinalist in 2019. The Warriors went 7-2 in 2020 after moving up two divisions to Region 19, losing 21-14 in a regional semifinal to eventual state runner-up Ironton.

“It was tough losing last year to Ironton and we were working hard all summer, doing film, camp and working out in the weight room, learning how to play with each other and taking it week by week,” senior defensive lineman Edjay Sumo said. “For this playoff push, everybody came back healthy and we came back ready to play.”

Harvest Prep's Jaylen Jennings walks off the field following a 28-22 loss to Versailles in a Division V state semifinal Nov. 27 at London. Jennings, a Bowling Green commit who missed four regular-season games with an injury, finished with 1,202 yards rushing in nine games.
Harvest Prep's Jaylen Jennings walks off the field following a 28-22 loss to Versailles in a Division V state semifinal Nov. 27 at London. Jennings, a Bowling Green commit who missed four regular-season games with an injury, finished with 1,202 yards rushing in nine games.

Jennings and Sumo were first-team all-district along with seniors Joseph Johnson (OL/DL) and Chandler Burrell (LB).

Saunders, who finished with 23 receptions, was special/honorable mention all-district along with senior Avery Gardner (OL/DL), juniors Justin Bautista (WR/DB), Rashad Debose Jr. (OL/DL) and Aidan Rogers (QB) and sophomores Marchello Cox (RB/LB), J.J. DeCarlo (LB/OL) and Ja’Narius Strickland (OL/DL).

Rogers completed 118 of 238 passes for 1,846 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Bautista had seven catches for 122 yards against Versailles and finished with 32 receptions for 495 yards and four touchdowns.

Others eligible to return include junior Xavier Cain (OL/DL), sophomores Matthew Austin (WR/DB), Chris Brown (WR/DB), Elijah Brown (DB), Wonder Harris (K) and Shawn Ruffin (HB/LB) and freshman Shavez Watkins (RB/LB).

Harvest Prep went 4-0 to win the MSL-Ohio Division, giving the program its seventh league title in eight seasons.

“I’ll remember (this team’s) resilience,” coach Milan Smith said. “I’ll remember their never-give-up attitude. They became champions, whether they won this game or not.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

HARVEST PREP FOOTBALL

•Record: 10-3 overall

•MSL-Ohio standings: Harvest Prep (4-0), Whitehall (3-1), Columbus Academy (3-2), Buckeye Valley (2-3), Bexley (1-4), Grandview (0-3)

•Seniors lost: Chandler Burrell, Avery Gardner, Jaylen Jennings, Joseph Johnson, Austin Reeves, Artrell Saunders, Edjay Sumo and Jermaine Townsend

•Key returnees: Justin Bautista, Chris Brown, Xavier Cain, Marchello Cox, Rashad Debose Jr., J.J. DeCarlo, Aidan Rogers, Shawn Ruffin and Ja’Narius Strickland

•Postseason: Def. McDermott Northwest 54-7; def. Amanda-Clearcreek 21-10; def. Columbus Academy 41-0; def. Wheelersburg 20-17; lost to Versailles 28-22 in Division V state semifinal

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Football: Harvest Prep Warriors come up short in Division V state semi

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