Story by Lisa Gayle Grayson
Photos by NEOSPORTSPIX.COM
Video by Rob Trautman
Three Hail Mary passes for touchdowns and a divine performance by a quarterback with the surname Christian weren't enough to lift North Olmsted's football team to an upset of Berea-Midpark's homecoming festivities.
They certainly made for an exciting Southwestern Conference clash at Tressel Field.
The quarterback duel ended in the Titans' favor as they held on to take the sudden death showdown, 48-41, at Baldwin Wallace University's George Finnie Stadium Friday night.
Joey Bachie's winning 2-yard run in overtime was his team's only rushing touchdown of the night. The Berea-Midpark defense did the rest to preserve the victory as the Titans improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SWC.
"I feel for the kids," said North Olmsted head coach Tim Brediger, whose team fell to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the SWC.
"This is three games this year we've lost to playoff-contending teams in the last drive of the game or last second of the game. It's a testament to how hard they work," he said.
The teams' junior quarterbacks combined for 798 yards passing and 10 TDs. The Eagles' Christian Ammons was 27-of-43 for 446 yards as he matched his school record for five touchdowns. Berea-Midpark's Nick Gasser was 21-of-33 for 352 yards and five touchdowns.
North Olmsted turned to its air attack this week after losing tailback Joshua Hufstetler to an injury a week prior in the win over Bay.
Ammons responded well. He connected with senior receiver Matt Starcovic (8 receptions, 241 yds.) for a school-record four passing touchdowns. Three were sling-and-a-prayer plays of 40, 32 and 71 yards. The other was a 22-yard completion.
"He did a great job," Brediger said of Ammons. "He had some rough going early in the game, but he really kept his composure in the second half."
Gassman struggled to find his touch, but performed well enough to throw touchdowns to five different players. The first half included a 35-yarder to Justin Harris, a 30-yard completion to Brett Swinnerton and 23-yard reception by Matt Owens.
In the second half, Gassman connected with Ryan Montanari on a 23-yarder, and then a 37-yard play to tight end Jon Turk that helped send the game into overtime.
Turk's catch with 2:12 to go was the junior's first varsity reception of his career.
"He started out a little bit tight," Titans head coach Ray Hradek said of Gassman. "As a young junior, he recognized the importance of this game. I do believe that affected his performance.
"He was pressing it, basically," he said.
North Olmsted's single shot at scoring in overtime was thwarted by Berea-Midpark's stalwart defense. On fourth and 18, senior cornerback Caleb Samol picked off Ammons.
"That was a crazy way to win," Berea-Midpark sophomore defensive back Matt Hausler said. "Caleb is one of our best corners, and he's a great athlete. He just did his job."
The game's conclusion, however, nullified an impressive comeback by the Eagles that started late in the second quarter.
Trailing 26-7, they closed the half with a 50-yard kickoff return by junior Ryan Coleman, and then Starcovic's 40-yard touchdown as the opening half expired. Max Becker kicked the extra point to narrow North Olmsted's deficit to 12.
"The Hail Mary before halftime was a huge momentum boost for us," Brediger said.
Coming out of the locker room, the Eagles received the ball. They took 5:30 to drive 80 yards on 14 plays before scoring on a 5-yard completion to Starcovic.
After Berea-Midpark failed to score on the next drive, the Eagles scored on a 32-yard completion to Kyle Wapshott on fourth and eight. The junior receiver fielded the hiked up pass that was tipped by Samol.
North Olmsted's attempt at a 2-point conversion to Coleman failed as it was caught out of bounds. Still, the Eagles led for the first time that game, 27-26, with 1:39 to go in the third quarter.
The teams took turns scoring in the fourth quarter. Berea-Midpark regained the lead on the 23-yard reception by Montanari and a 2-point conversion pass to Bachie.
Nineteen seconds later on the initial play of the ensuing drive, North Olmsted knotted the score with Ammons' 71-yard bomb to Starcovic.
"Every time we got some momentum, a credit to them, they came back and took it away," Brediger said.
The Eagles inched ahead on their next series with their lone rushing touchdown of the night, a 2-yard carry by Jake Jones with 2:56 on the clock. Jones ran the ball 15 times on the night for 51 yards in relief of the injured Hofstetler.
"We didn't have our tailback this week, but Jake Jones, our middle linebacker, and Sean Horn took that role," Brediger said. "We hung in there.
"We were beaten up a little here and there, but we just kept plugging at it," he said.
Gassman capped a seven-play drive that took only 44 seconds when he found Turk and tied the game at 41-41 with 2:12 remaining. The Eagles were unable to move the ball more than 13 yards in their final series in regulation.
"Most of our games have been blowouts," Hausler said. "They were a tough team. We just hung in there and never gave up. We just came up with the win."
The Titans put themselves into favorable position from the opening drive. Harris scored from 35 yards out. The completion and successful point after by Connor Kahl gave the Titans a 7-0 lead 2 minutes into the game.
Owens' 37-yard pick-6 helped Berea-Midpark tack on another score with 4:43 left in the first quarter. A botched snap on the PAT resulted in a failed 2-point conversion pass, but the Titans led 13-0.
North Olmsted was resilient. Ammons connected with Starcovic to score the 22-yard completion and Max Becker's PAT put the Eagles within a touchdown with four seconds to go in the first quarter.
"It's a loss, but not many people gave us a chance to hang with a team like that," Brediger said. "We hurt ourselves early on, but I still think there was a chance for us to win."
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