By Adam C. Warner
It doesn’t get much better than this for Ohio football fans as two of the state’s most storied and talented teams battled for the right to advance in the Division I regional football playoffs.
However, this postseason game between state powers and crosstown rivals was decided in a most unorthodox fashion.
Instead of a high-scoring affair or late scoring drive that decided the game, the Wildcats beat the Tarblooders without scoring one touchdown. St. Ignatius advanced by scoring on two field goals and a blocked kick that went for a safety.
St. Ignatius trailed Glenville, 7-5, midway through the fourth quarter before quarterback Andrew Holland found wideout Connor Ryan for a 40-yard pass play that would set up Seamus Hennessey’s game-winning 37-yard field goal with 6:11 left.
Once the offense got the job done, the St. Ignatius defense followed suit. The Wildcats put forth two giant defensive stands in the final five minutes of the game to prevail 8-7 and move on in the playoffs. The Wildcats would eventually go on to win the Div. I state championship with a 28-20 win over Elder on Nov. 29.
This epic postseason matchup between state juggernauts was one for the ages.
Davison seeimingly had a trip to the finals wrapped up before Muskegon pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in state history.
The Cardinals led by 22 points late in the third quarter and even 16 with less than five minutes left before the Big Reds made their move.
Muskegon recovered two onside kick attempts and scored 19 points in the last four and a half minutes to take the lead for good. Greg Wicklieffe scored on a 20-yard run with just 42 seconds left to give his side the decisive edge.
Davison had one last chance for redemption but Muskegon’s Elan Banks made an interception in the end zone to secure his team’s victory and mark one of the most thrilling and unimaginable wins in Michigan high school football history.
This Keystone State semifinal matchup featured it all: two teams with power ratings over 90, high-octane offenses, tremendous individual efforts and one fantastic finish.
Kicked Patrick Lydon booted the game-winning 25-yard field goal in triple overtime to lift Bethel Park to a 38-35 win over Wilson and earn his team a trip to the PIAA title game.
Entering the contest, Bethel Park had a reputation for its power running attack, but it was actually the squad’s aerial attack that cashed in. Quarterback Erik Olson was 17-27 for 288 yards and five touchdowns and brought his team back from a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter and tied the score.
Both teams couldn’t come up with any more points in the fourth quarter, but traded touchdowns in each of the first and second overtime sessions.
Then in the third overtime, Wilson had the ball from inside the 5-yard line, but turned it over when Matthew Bliss intercepted Alex Fegley’s throw.
Lydon attempted a 23-yard field goal to win the game for Bethel Park, but his try sailed wide. But due to a running into the kicker penalty on Wilson, Lydon and his teammates had one more chance.
For Lydon – who had never stepped foot on a football field as a player before the season -- and Bethel Park, the rest is history.
This game had been on everyone’s radar since it was announced on the schedule, and it surely did not disappoint as two of the nation’s premier teams battled to the very last seconds.
Despite traveling cross-country to face a daunting challenge in De La Salle, Don Bosco Prep put forth arguably its best performance of the season in week three.
Patrick Murray booted a 19-yard field goal with just 10 ticks remaining to give the Ironmen a sensational 23-21 win over the Spartans at Owens Field in Concord in front of nearly 7,000 raucous fans.
Earlier in the half, Murray missed an extra point attempt after a Don Bosco score that left his team trailing 21-20 with just a few minutes remaining.
Talk about redemption.
The Don Bosco community will remember Murray’s final field goal for decades, and not just for the thrilling conclusion and redemption factor in the game, but because East Coast football proved that it can not only play with the nation’s best, but beat them, too.
Many prognosticators pegged West Catholic for an easy victory over Wilmington in the PIAA Class AA championship back in December.
It’s easy to see why as West Catholic entered averaging 50 points per game and nearly 400 yards of offense per contest.
However, thanks to a second half surge and a late-game stop, Wilmington Area proved the state wrong and came away with one of the most unprecedented wins in Keystone State history.
Wilmington stopped West Catholic quarterback Curtis Drake just inches from the end zone in double overtime to earn its first state championship in school history and claim one of the biggest upsets in state finals history, 35-34.
From the outset, all of the predictions seemed right on. The Burrs racked up 260 yards rushing behind running back Raymond Maples and a 14-0 lead in the first half. It seemed that everything was going right for West Catholic.
But thanks to second half scores by Shane Wagner and Derrick Burns, the Greyhounds came right back and tied the score at 14-14. The teams would play to a 21-21 tie at the end of regulation before heading into overtime.
After trading touchdowns in the first overtime, Burns scored on a 1-yard run in the second extra session to give Wilmington a 35-28 lead. West Catholic marched right down and answered the call when Maples scampered in from two yards out to make the score 35-34 Wilmington.
But instead of going for the extra point attempt and third overtime, West Catholic head coach Brian Fluck decided to go for two points and the win.
On the ensuing play, Drake was tackled just inches shy of the goal line thanks to a swarming Greyhound defense.
To contact editor Adam C. Warner, send an e-mail to email@example.com.