By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE — Whiteford’s defense made a stop on the final play of the third overtime to lift the Bobcats to a thrilling 58-56 Tri-County Conference victory Friday night.
It was the longest game in school history and probably one of the craziest finishes.
The Bobcats got a touchdown run from Cole Giesige on its third overtime possession, then Nick Marchant converted the two-point conversion to put Whiteford ahead 58-50. BD scored a touchdown on its possession of the third overtime but was stopped on its two-point conversion attempt, ending the game and sending the Bobcat players rushing the field in excitement.
Evan Dyer made the stop on the BD ball-carrier.
“Anytime competition is tight its exciting for all of the people,” Whiteford head coach Jason Mensing said. “We certainly had it today.”
The game featured a little bit of everything. The two teams were tied five times and the lead changed hands nine times in the game. BD scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter – the second one coming with just 12 seconds left in regulation – to send the game into overtime. Both teams converted touchdowns and two-point conversions in the first two overtimes.
The game was not without its dramatics, either. Twice referees had to huddle before signaling touchdowns and close plays at the goal line.
“In 20 years of coaching this is the first three overtime game that I’ve ever been a part of,” Mensing said. “I’m certainly glad to be on the winning side of it.”
Devon Shaw’s 6-yard scoring run with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter put Whiteford up 34-20. BD charged back quickly, however, as Patriot quarterback Nico Johnson found Cole Shiels on a 34-yard pass play. Shiels made a great play to pull in the two-point conversion to pull BD within 34-28.
The Patriots were successful on the onside kick attempt and managed the clock perfect to get the ball in scoring position in the final seconds. Johnson’s 1-yard run with 12 seconds left tied the game. Johnson originally sent the offense onto the field for a potential game-winning two-point conversion play but called timeout and went with an extra-point attempt instead. When the kick went wide right, the Bobcats gained new life.
At the end of regulation, Mensing gathered his players together and got them excited about playing in overtime – the first for Whiteford in nearly a decade.
“Anytime you get to play extra football you have to celebrate it,” he said. “A lot of times if you are going into overtime and had just given up two scores, players tend to sulk a little bit. I thought it was critical to be excited about the opportunity to keep playing.”
Nick Marchant got the Bobcats on the board in the first overtime, then Shea Ruddy found Marchant for the two-point conversion and the Bobcats led 42-34. Gavin Cousino’s 1-yard run and Johnson’s conversion tied it at 42-42 after the first overtime.
In the second, BD got the ball first and Johnson took it in himself, followed by a Cousino two-pointer. On Whiteford’s possession, Ruddy completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Braedon Mills and Marchant found the end-zone for the 50-50 tie.
In the third OT, Giesige scored the Bobcat TD and Marchant was good on his fifth conversion of the game, which proved to be the game-winner when Whiteford got a stop on BD’s two-point conversion attempt.
“The offensive line really worked to create the holes for me,” Marchant said after the game. “I was just following my blockers. I was just running straight ahead. Our offensive line was there all night.
“It’s definitely exciting. Everyone’s emotions were high.”
Marchant rushed for 134 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns while catching four passes for 103 yards.
“He’s had a great senior year as a running back and as a cornerback,” Mensing said of Marchant. “He had a great night tonight. We’re really happy to see him have that moment.”
Shaw gained 92 yards rushing and scored twice while Giesige scored once and had 59 yards on the ground.
Ruddy completed 5 of his 8 passes for 114 yards and two scores.
The Bobcats are 5-3 and need a win Friday at home vs. Summerfield to clinch an automatic playoff berth. Mensing said he was proud of his relatively young team for growing up so fast. They are playing with confidence, he said.
“It’s huge,” he said. “All year they’ve competed butts off. For us to be 5-3 at this point is real blessing. The kids have played so hard. I think it started with our seniors and their expectations to have competitive football team. Our seniors are leading with the expectations that we keep winning football games. I think that’s big piece of it.”
Photo courtesy of Matt VanBrandt