The Mentor Cardinals kept pace with the Toledo Whitmer Panthers for 2 1/2 quarters Saturday night.
However, the Cardinals gradually ran out of fuel while the Panthers kept chugging away en route to a 62-34 win.
"They battled their tails off," Mentor Head Coach Steve Trivisonno said of his team. "They played hard all this year. They just ran out of gas at the end there."
The Mentor Cardinals ran a hellacious gauntlet to make it to the Div. 1 state semifinal.
They had to beat Warren Harding, St. Edward and St. Ignatius. Against Edward, they had to overcome a 21-point deficit. It took three overtimes to finally supplant Ignatius.
By comparison, Whitmer had an easier path.
"They're fresh," Trivisonno said of Whitmer. "They had a cakewalk in their region."
The Cardinals kept the game closer than the final score would indicate through the first half. After the Cardinals' first drive of the third half, they had knotted the game at 20.
However, Whitmer would control the game the rest of the way, scoring on six consecutive drives in the second half.
The Cardinals' exhausted defense had no answer for Panther quarterback Nick Holley who ran for 249 yards and two touchdowns and passed for another 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Panther running backs Me'Gail Frish and Tre Reditt-Sterrit also combined for 125 yards running and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the high-octane Cardinals offense could not trade touchdowns with Whitmer. Mentor scored three touchdowns in the second half while the Panthers scored six.
Mentor quarterback Mitch Trubisky ended his astonishing high school career by accruing 121 yards and two touchdowns running and 353 yards another three touchdowns passing against Whitmer. He racked up more than 4,000 yards passing this season.
He also threw two interceptions and fumbled once. All three turnovers led to Panthers' touchdowns.
"Unlikely mistakes -- that's not Cardinal football," Trubisky said afterward.
"We made mistakes and they took advantage of it," he said. "That's the way football is. That's the way life is."
While Trubisky was disappointed his final Mentor football game ended with a loss instead of a state championship, he didn't talk about regrets after the game.
"I hope people enjoyed watching because I enjoyed playing for this community," Trubisky said.
Whitmer pulled out to an early lead on the back of Nick Holley.
The Mentor Cardinals kept pace with Toledo Whitmer for the first half of the game but their own mistakes prevented them from capitalizing on any momentum they established.
The Cardinals only allowed three turnovers but all led to Whitmer touchdowns. Moreover, one came at key junction in the game.
The first occurred when Mentor was trailing Whitmer 13-7 in the second quarter. A pair of runs by Trubisky had brought the Cardinals to Whitmer's 3-yard line.
However, the ball popped into the air when Trubisky tried to hand the ball to running back Nick Delisa and Whitmer defensive end Jacob LaPoint nabbed it.
LaPoint ran the ball 97 yards but the touchdown was nullified by a Whitmer personal foul.
But, shortly thereafter, Holley connected with his twin brother Nathan Holley on a 20-yard touchdown pass, stretching the Panthers' lead to to 20-7.
The combination of Trubisky and wide receiver Conner Krizancic helped pull Mentor back into the game. Trubisky found Krizancic for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the first half, cutting Whitmer's lead to 20-13.
The Cardinals then began the second half hungry. On their opening drive of the third quarter, Krizancic broke several tackles on a 37-yard pass before falling on Whitmer's 1-yard line. Trubisky ran it across the goal line on the next play.
An extra point from Mike Muzic tied the game at 20.
Krizancic led the Mentor receiving corps with two touchdowns and 159 yards. Wide receiver Brandon Fritts, a cornerstone of the Cardinals' offense, caught six passes for 56 yards. He left the game hurt in the fourth quarter.
Whitmer controlled the game after the Cardinals' opening drive in the third quarter.
The Mentor defense did not force a single punt in the second half. Additionally, the Panthers intercepted Trubisky twice, costing Mentor valuable scoring opportunities.
After the game, Trivisonno reminded his team that they had accomplished something special by making it to the state semifinals.
"You should be very proud of yourselves," he said. "Nobody can take what you've done away from you."
Trubisky, a recruit for the University of North Carolina, headlines the departing class of seniors.
However, Mentor's junior varsity and freshman teams both went undefeated this season so Trivisonno is not worried about finding talent to fill the voids created by graduating seniors.
"They'll be back next year," he said.Whitmer 13 7 14 28 62 Mentor 7 6 7 14 34