Hillsdale running back Owen Sloan stiff-arms Lucas' Zach Diehl.
Hillsdale running back Owen Sloan stiff-arms Lucas' Zach Diehl during the first half Friday at Hillsdale. (photo by Curt Conrad, staff reporter)

JEROMESVILLE — Jack Fickes and his Hillsdale teammates exorcised a demon Friday night.

A senior quarterback, Fickes rushed for three touchdowns as the Falcons rallied for a 21-17 win over Lucas in a battle of north central Ohio small-school powers.

Fickes was a receiver the past two years, suffering through a pair of heart-breaking losses to the Cubs. Lucas beat Hillsdale 14-12 in 2021 and 14-13 last year.

“We didn’t want them to get us for a third time,” said Fickes, who moved to quarterback this fall after the graduation of All-Ohioan Jake Hoverstock. “They are a great team, but we came in with a pretty good gameplan and we executed it well.”

The Falcons (2-0) trailed 10-7 at the half before taking a 14-10 lead on Fickes’ 2-yard TD run with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter.

It would stay that way into the fourth, when Lucas’ Logan Toms fielded a punt at his on 13-yard line and sliced through Hillsdale’s coverage team for an 87-yard touchdown to give the Cubs a 17-14 edge.

Hillsdale regained possession with about eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and pieced together what proved to be the game-winning drive. The Falcons moved inside the Lucas 10 with less than three minutes to play, but were faced with a fourth-and-goal from inside the Lucas 1 with just under two minutes showing.

Instead of kicking a game-tying chip-shot field goal, the Falcons opted to go for it. Fickes took the shotgun snap, moved to his right and followed the block of running back Braylen Jarvis into the end zone.

“We wanted to challenge our line. We’re on the half-yard line,” Hillsdale coach Trevor Cline said of the decision to go for it on fourth down. “I don’t care who you are playing, if you want to be a great team you’ve got to be able to find a way to pick up a yard.”

Lucas took over, but on the first play of the ensuing drive Hillsdale’s Hayden McFadden intercepted a pass to seal the victory.

“Lucas is a great program and they are very well-coached,” Cline said. “Their players are extremely disciplined and you’ve got to match their physicality.

“We look forward to playing them each year and, as long as we’re in the same region, the possibility exists that we may even play them more than once.”

Lucas got on the board first on Zach Diehl’s 23-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Falcons pulled even on the first play of the second period when Fickes broke a 30-yarder on fourth-and-one.

The Cubs took a 10-7 lead to the break on All-Ohio kicker Aidan Culler’s 36-yard field late in the second quarter.

Lucas lost in heartbreaking fashion for a second straight week. The Cubs fell to Clear Fork 17-14 in double overtime last week.

“They basically played our brand of football. They kept the ball away from us,” Lucas coach Scott Spitler said. “When we did get the ball, we shot ourselves in the foot way too much.

“There shouldn’t be any more bullets left in the chamber after the last two weeks. There’s been so many little things in all three phases that have cost us.”

The Falcons piled up 229 yards of rushing offense. Fickes led the way with 120 yards on the ground while Jarvis added 50 yards.

Toms topped the Cubs with 58 rushing yards. Diehl added 45.