ST. BERNARD — For the Roger Bacon football team, there really is no place like home.
The Spartans have not lost at the friendly confines of Bron Bacevich Memorial Stadium since 2018. On Saturday night, Roger Bacon increased its East Mitchell Avenue winning streak to 19 straight with a 16-6 victory over Mariemont in the Division V, Region 20 quarterfinals.
Of course, Roger Bacon has typically cruised during that streak, winning by an average of 31.3 points over the first 18 games with just one (last year's 31-28 win over Versailles in the regional semifinals) affair decided by single digits.
On Saturday, the Spartans had to win a different type of game. After taking an early 13-0 lead, Mariemont matched Roger Bacon blow for blow in a low-scoring, physical bout that was one by play in the trenches and defense.
"We never want one that close, but Mariemont is a really great football team. My hats off to them," Roger Bacon head coach Mike Blaut said. "Our guys stepped up and made plays tonight. Offensively, we were good at first and kind of faded at the end, but we did what we needed to win it."
Roger Bacon's defense, which has not allowed more than six points in a game since Oct. 8, stood strong while protecting a one-score lead in the second half. Mariemont had three drives reach Roger Bacon territory in the second half, but had no points to show for it.
Junior corner Jimmy Mumper had two interceptions (giving him four in the last five games), including one late in the third quarter with Mariemont at midfield. That turnover led to a Dylan Rolfert field goal that gave Roger Bacon its 16-6 advantage, which would hold for the rest of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Mariemont drove into the red zone after sniffing out a Roger Bacon fake punt. Facing fourth-and-12 from the Spartans' 20, Roger Bacon dialed up a zero blitz and Jake Lawwill made a game-changing sack for a 12-yard loss.
Roger Bacon would tally seven sacks total on the night, led by senior Nolan Wall's hat trick, a pair from junior defensive tackle Dakarai Edwards and one from Richard Allen.
Mariemont's final march reached the Roger Bacon 45, but defensive back Timyone Andrew broke up a deep ball to flip possession with 3:44 remaining and all but clinch the Spartans' spot in the regional semifinals.
"Coach Sully (Roger Bacon defensive coordinator Solomon Tentman) does a great job with our guys and they feed off his excitement all the time," Blaut said. "Our defense really stood up well tonight."
Despite the offense sputtering in the second half, Roger Bacon jumped out to an early through the air, then used its ground game to finish it.
Quarterback Logan Huber brought playoff experience with him from last season's Final Four run. The senior was 8-of-15 for 115 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to give the Spartans a lead they would not relinquish.
Huber found a streaking Beamer Walker for a 46-yard touchdown at the 7:35 mark of the first quarter for the game's icebreaker. One possession later after Walker's 48-yard punt return, Huber moved the pocket with a boot leg and flipped a 12-yard score to Eric Johnson to make it 13-0.
While the passing attack jump-started the scoring, Roger Bacon would lean on the Miami Valley Conference player of the year for the majority of the night. Running back Jahmal Hutsell's five-game touchdown streak was snapped, but the senior still ran for a game-high 137 yards on 26 carries and caught four passes out of the backfield.
Despite playing behind current LSU running back and 2020 Ohio Mr. Football Corey Kiner for three seasons, Hutsell is now just 25 rushing yards away from 2,000 for his career.
"We always knew he (Hutsell) was gonna be really good," Blaut said. "It's great to see him shine. He's worked his butt off and he deserves all the accolades he could get."
Mariemont was working once again without starting quarterback David Dorsten, who had missed the last month of the season. In his place was sophomore Charlie Tully, who finished with 26-of-42 for 176 yards.
Mariemont did not back down despite the early deficit. Roger Bacon had three drives reach Mariemont territory in the first half with a chance to add to its 13-0 lead, but it was the Warriors' defense that held strong, forcing a punt, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal.
"That was a good game. We were in it the whole time," Mariemont head coach Nick Leone said. "I'm proud of this group — they work so hard and they just kept fighting."
Using a bevy of short, quick-hitters and zone reads, Mariemont manufactured a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive before the half, with Tully going 5-of-9 for 43 yards and calling his own number in the red zone with a nifty 11-yard scoring scamper.
"A young sophomore quarterback, he (Tully) did a lot of great things for us tonight," Leone said.
Mariemont running back Max Tepe toughed out 109 yards from scrimmage (51 rushing, 59 receiving) on 26 touches, marking the 10th time in 11 games this season he crossed triple digits. The senior finished the year with over 1,200 yards on the ground, 38 catches for 362 yards and 17 total touchdowns. He was also responsible for four of Mariemont's five third-down conversions on the night and had nine tackles and an interception on defense.
The Warriors were led in the passing attack by Connor Souders, who had a game-high 61 yards on eight receptions. Tight end Ethan Malafa was instrumental on Mariemont's lone scoring drive, snagging five passes for 54 yards and sophomore Davis Whitmore had four catches for 27 yards.
"Our message all year is to keep swinging," Leone said. "The kids just believe. I think you saw tonight how cool of a team this is. There are freshmen and sophomores crying because everyone is so invested here. A lot of teams see 13-0 against Roger Bacon and they shut down because they're so good. Our guys kept pushing and that's how we were able to stay in it."
Roger Bacon will take its 19-game home win streak into the 2022 campaign, but the Spartans are focused on next week, when they'll be at a neutral location against unbeaten Preble Shawnee (12-0), which blasted Williamsburg Friday night, 62-7.
Roger Bacon lost two straight during the regular season to teams in higher divisions that are still alive in the postseason (Badin, McNicholas). Since then, they've outscored opponents 227-44 over a six-game win streak.
"I think we are playing our best ball," Blaut said. "I think our confidence is up right now; our kids are stoked. This was a great test for us because it's gonna get harder as we go."
Roger Bacon 16, Mariemont 6
Roger Bacon — 13 0 3 0 — 16
Mariemont — 0 6 0 0 — 6
RB — Walker 46 pass from Huber (Rolfert kick)
RB — Johnson 18 pass from Huber (kick failed)
M — Tully 11 run (kick failed)
RB — FG Rolfert 27
Records: RB 9-2, M 8-4
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: High school football: Roger Bacon grinds out 16-6 playoff win over Mariemont