About 30 seconds was all Catholic High School needed to win Friday night.
The Bears scored in the opening and closing seconds to beat McKinley 15-14 in a frenzied affair at McKinley.
“This is a classic example of playing 48 minutes of football,” said Catholic coach Dale Weiner. “Every minute is just as important as the next.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Catholic quarterback Nick Coomes found wideout Ken Ward on a slant for a 74-yard touchdown just 11 seconds into the game.
They wouldn’t score again until running back D.J. Woodard leaped in the end zone from 2 yards out with 10.7 seconds left in the game.
The Bears then lined up for a extra point, only to split the formation. Backup quarterback Ben Braymer took the snap, scrambled and found Clay Moffit for the go-ahead two-point conversion.
“It was hard to give it up at the end,” McKinley coach Robert Signater said. “I thought we had a chance on the two-point conversion to stop him, but we went to sleep and started looking in the backfield. I thought we had it covered, but I guess we didn’t.”
The Panthers controlled most of the game, led by running back Lenard Tillery. The senior rushed for a game-high 212 yards.
“He’s back,” Signater said. “This is his third game back. He’s a man. He really helped.”
Panthers quarterback Jarred Hayes also had a productive game, going 11-of-15 for 107 yards and no interceptions. Cody Swain was his favorite target, catching seven balls for 81 yards.
Catholic had a more balanced attack on the ground, where the Bears tallied up 196 yards between five running backs.
The game didn’t end without controversy. On Catholic’s last drive, Coomes found a receiver Christian Brown over the middle for a 13-yard gain, putting the Bears on the McKinley 10-yard line.
One referee initially ruled the pass incomplete, but after a meeting with the other referees, it was ruled a catch.
“I thought we actually had it,” Weiner said. “I saw him pulling it in. I was afraid they weren’t going to call it for us. I realize there are different angles and different opinions on it, but I think they made the right ruling.”
Signater said he thought the pass was clearly incomplete.
“The ball was on the ground,” Signater said. “That one play didn’t win or lose the game but I tell you what - it made a big difference. I’m not making excuses. Hats off to Catholic. They fought and in the end they won.”
McKinley’s lone score of the second half came on the half’s first drive. With the score tied at 7-7, the Panthers motored 75 yards on 11 plays into the end zone on Marvin Batiste’s 4-yard scamper. Ramsses Brown’s point-after gave the Panthers a 14-7 lead.
After Ward’s early touchdown, McKinley answered with a heavy dose of Tillery, who had 111 yards in the half.
Tillery sprinted in the end zone from 9 yards with 9:51 left in the second quarter to pull the Panthers within one. Brown’s PAT knotted the score at 7-7.
On its second-to-last drive of the first half, Tillery carried on seven of McKinley’s 10 plays, three of those for first downs. He gained 53 yards on the drive.