Three and a half hours after starting the craziest game of their lives, the Teurlings Catholic football players sprinted over to their screaming friends and family in the visiting bleachers, climbed the lower level of the fences and carried over the party that they started on the field in the second half.
A shocked St. Thomas More team watched with sunken eyes as a coach repeated, “Remember how this feels.”
Teurlings Catholic may never again experience the type of adversity that it did Friday night against St. Thomas More, but when it hit Friday night — and it hit hard — the Rebels hit right back with even more force.
The Rebels, down 43-17 midway through the third quarter, put together a rally for the ages, scoring 36 straight points in a blink of an eye to stun the previously unbeaten Cougars 56-46.
All it took was an answered prayer.
Teurlings quarterback Cole Kelley was hot and cold all night, but he kept slinging the ball downfield trying to start something. On the Rebels’ first play after the Cougars took the 43-17 lead, Kelley heaved a bomb downfield — and hit a Cougars defender right in the chest.
It was a sure interception, at least it looked like it. But serendipity played its part Friday. Everything that wasn’t going the Rebels’ way suddenly and drastically shifted in Teurlings Catholic’s favor.
“The ball bounced their way tonight,” STM coach Jim Hightower said.
The ball that should’ve been intercepted and returned deep in Teurlings (5-1, 3-0) territory instead popped up into the air. Running back Sage LeBlanc sped toward it, hauled it in and ran away from the Cougars defense for an 80-yard touchdown.
Luck would continue to be on their side, but the Rebels also made their own magic happen.
On Kelley’s next throw, he arced a rainbow down the right sideline and dropped a beauty right in Grant LaGrange’s hands in stride for a 38-yard touchdown.
With the Rebels (6-1, 2-1) applying pressure, the Cougars started to crack. The Rebels’ defense forced a punt after Kelley’s touchdown pass to LaGrange, and a low snap allowed the Rebels to tackle the Cougars’ punter and set up a 2-yard touchdown plunge to cut the deficit to three.
The Rebels recovered a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, and on the second play of the fourth quarter Kelley gave the Rebels the lead for good with another touchdown strike to LaGrange, this one coming from 26 yards.
The cherry on top of the rally was a 20-yard touchdown pass from running back Sage LeBlanc to safety Gavin Royer on a blown field goal attempt. LeBlanc corralled the high snap, ran desperately across the field and lobbed a ball toward the end zone. Again, it looked like the Cougars had an interception, but Royer plucked the ball out of the defender’s hands and scored.
“Gavin wanted it more,” Teurlings coach Sonny Charpentier said.
The Cougars, who put together their own crazy rally earlier in the game, were out of gas.
Even though Kelley threw for more than 400 yards and three scores, he did not have his best night, missing several throws he usually makes. But when he needed to drill a receiver, he found a way.
“He made some bad throws, but that cat’s got nerves of steel and supreme confidence, and that feeds into our whole team,” Charpentier said.
It was all Rebels early — until it wasn’t.
Kelley engineered a four-play, 80-yard drive to start the game and temporary silence a capacity crowd, capping it by lumbering for a 10-yard score.
Then Rebels linebacker Brandon Batiste intercepted STM quarterback Will Bellamy on the ensuing drive, returning it deep into Cougars territory and setting up a Noah Harris touchdown plunge.
Six offensive plays for the Rebels netted 14 points. But the Cougars and their high-octane offense didn’t blink.
When his team needed him most, running back Trevor Begue did the heavy lifting.
He worked his way behind the Teurlings defense on a third and 5 in the first quarter, and Bellamy drilled him in the end zone for a 26-yard score.
Two drives later, Begue capped off a drive by leaping over the pile for a two-yard touchdown. The two touchdowns were Begue’s 14th and 15th of the season.
The Cougars followed Begue’s lead, scoring two more touchdowns to go into the locker room with a 28-17 lead. They tacked on 15 more points in the opening minutes of the second half, and it looked like they were going to run away with the game until the Rebels chaotic rally.
STM was hampered in the second half by the loss of Begue and leading receiver Tiger Bech.