ADRIAN — Windsor senior Jonah Roberts has stayed relatively quiet.
After a record-breaking season as running back last year, Roberts adjusted to a more balanced run-pass attack and made room in the box score for skill position players like sophomores Dalton and Dylan Witherspoon and junior Jacob Berube.
But last week, rushing for three scores and 202 yards in a 41-14 win against Crest Ridge, marked an uptick in urgency for the senior Greyhounds tailback.
Roberts scored via rush, pass and reception, the Greyhounds defense forced two takeaways and Windsor captured its first district title in 30 years Friday with a 20-19 victory over Adrian at Vernon W. Welch Memorial Field at George Bruto Athletic Complex.
“Once you think you’re playing hard, you find a way to play harder,” Roberts said.
Both defenses forced a three-and-out on the opening drives, but the Blackhawks blocked Windsor’s punt and junior Grant Stacey returned it for a touchdown. Adrian senior Ryen Glaser capped a scoring drive with a 7-yard rush, succeeded by a missed point-after attempt, to give the Blackhawks a 13-0 lead in the first period.
Adrian (10-2) previously defeated Windsor 41-14, and all signs pointed to a blowout after a hot start. Greyhounds head coach Jake Vencill said the team reflected on their season goals after the disappointing Oct. 11 result.
“We were very real with ourselves,” Vencill said. “We realized that we had to get better. … There were some things we could do better against the option, but we knew we had to get better as football players.”
On a sweep, Roberts gained 50 yards to position the Greyhounds at the Adrian 27 before the first quarter ended. On the first snap of the second quarter, Greyhounds sophomore Dylan Witherspoon recovered a loose snap in the backfield and passed to Roberts, who turned a broken play into a 24-yard score. A failed 2-point conversion left Windsor trailing 13-6.
Greyhounds senior Aiden Schneider stopped the ensuing Blackhawks drive, and Windsor (10-2) pounded its way forward on its next sequence — using a sneak from junior Kenton Sargent to convert a fourth-down attempt.
Facing a decisive fourth and goal — tension building during an Adrian timeout — Roberts reversed directions after the initial handoff and desperately sprinted to the sideline. He leapt in the air as he passed to Jacob Berube in the end zone. A flag was picked up before Windsor could celebrate its TD and convert a 2-point attempt to take its first lead, 14-13.
“It was stuffed up,” Roberts said of the averted rush attempt. “I was just trying to make a play. I rolled out left and was thinking in my head, ‘This might be a penalty but if he catches it, at least we’ll get another try.’”
Greyhounds senior Ryan Dixon intercepted the next Blackhawks pass, but the visitors would not extend its lead before halftime.
Receiving the ball after the break, Roberts converted another fourth down with a 35-yard rushing TD, sealing a triple-threat scoring performance and giving the Greyhounds a 20-13 lead with 5:51 remaining in the third.
“It felt like it was the culmination of so many years of hard work and what we’ve been building as a program,” said Windsor football head coach Jake Vencill. “I could not be more proud of these guys.”
The Greyhounds recorded its second takeaway with less than 7 minutes to play, recovering a fumbled snap. Without a score, however, Adrian (10-2) marched forward for a potential game-winning drive.
Blackhawks sophomore Lucas Stone converted third and long with a 30-yard reception, and senior Cooper Mead punctuated the late-game drive with a three-yard rush with 50 seconds to play.
Lined up for a game-tying point-after attempt, encroachment on Windsor compelled the Blackhawks to try for 2. Adrian converted on a short rush, but was flagged for illegal motion — prompting the kicking unit to return.
Adrian faked the PAT, rolled right, but the game-winning pass fell incomplete.
“That was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been apart of,” Vencill said. “To have a community that’s this excited for it — pep rally today, everybody’s talking about it — I couldn’t be more happy for this town. They deserve it.”
Claiming its first district title since 1989, Windsor advances to host Lincoln (12-0), which beat Skyline 42-13 to capture District 3, Saturday, Nov. 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
This story has been updated.
Alex Agueros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @abagueros2.