By: Mitchell Peebles – THE VILLAGE REPORTER
BRYAN—It is not often that a broken play is the key to a team’s success, but Friday night at Golden Bear Stadium, that is exactly what happened. After scoring a touchdown with only five seconds left to play, Bryan decided to try and send the game into overtime with an extra point. A botched snap changed those plans. The snap saw the ball skip on the ground to place holder Sean Culler of the Bears, who quickly jumped to his feet as the Indian’s defense had broken through the line of Bryan. Culler narrowly avoided getting tackled, and delivered what would prove to be the game winning pass to teammate Derek Knisely, successfully completing the two point conversion, and sealing the 28-27 comeback win for the Golden Bears on homecoming night, and breaking the hearts of Indian players and fans alike.
With all the hype and excitement surrounding the match-up of the two unbeaten teams, it was hard to imagine that the game could possibly exceed the expectations of spectators, but what turned out to be an instant NWOAL classic game did just that, and could possibly turn out to be the game of the season.
The night started off well for the Golden Bears, as Bryan quarterback Austin Schimmoeller connected on a 46 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Poncsak, followed on their next drive by a 10 yard touchdown run by Dan Pendergrast, putting the Bears ahead by a score of 13-0, and it seemed as if the Bears may run away with the win, but the Tribe had a different plan.
The Indians would score 14 unanswered points in the final two minutes of the half. The first touchdown came off a two yard Axel Bueter run which capped off 61 yard drive. Bueter would then intercept a Schimmoeller pass at the Bryan 47 yard line, and the Indians would capitalize, as Wauseon’s senior quarterback Ty Suntken would punch the ball into the end zone with only one second left in the half. The momentum had shifted, and very suddenly, Wauseon had taken a 14-13 halftime lead over Bryan.
Bueter would again come up big for the Indians, as he caught a 53 yard touchdown pass from Suntken, and would simply refuse to be brought down as he broke several tackles on his way into the end zone, and Wauseon held a 20-13 lead at the end of three quarters of play.
Bryan would fumble the ensuing kickoff, and the Indians would waste little time, as Suntken would again lead his team to a score, as he dropped back to pass, but when seeing no one was open, ran the five yards into the end zone. The Indians had scored 27 unanswered points, making it 27-13 Wauseon, with 11:50 left in the game.
The Bears would put together a drive, but Wauseon’s JJ Kauffman picked off Schimmoeller’s pass in the end zone, giving the Indians the ball with only six minutes remaining, and it looked as if the Tribe was going to be able to run out the clock, and snap Bryan’s 17 game regular season winning streak.
But as had happened all throughout the night, as soon as the outcome seemed certain, momentum changed. A fumble by Bueter at the Indians eight yard line would prove costly for the Tribe, as it would lead to a Derek Knisely touchdown reception, making it 27-20 with 5:19 remaining. The Bears would attempt an onside kick, but the Indians would recover, and then go three and out on the ensuing possession, giving Bryan the ball on the Golden Bear 33 yard line.
The Bears would then put together what proved to be an absolutely unbelievable finish to the game.
As Bryan head coach Kevin Kline put it, “There was a little bit of luck at the end. Sometimes you need that.”
After driving 84 yards, and converting two fourth down situations, the Bears found themselves in a do or die situation. The clock running with less than 10 seconds remaining, and no timeouts. Schimmoeller got the snap, and dashed towards the end zone. The Indian defense had stopped him short of the goal line, but Schimmoeller had fumbled the ball into the end zone, and that is when Golden Bear lineman Jason Hug jumped on the ball, and was credited with the touchdown, with only 5.3 seconds left to play.
That led to the botched extra point attempt, which sealed the win for the Golden Bears.
“I’m proud of our kids for not quitting and sticking with things,” said Golden Bear head coach Kevin Kline, “…they kept fighting. That’s what we always tell them, to always try to get one more snap. That came down to the bitter end.
Wauseon head coach Travis Cooper feels that his team proved themselves as the real deal as well, even in the loss. ““It was a good football game,” said Wauseon coach Travis Cooper. “If there was any question as to whether we belonged on this field, it was answered. All the talk about Bryan as so dominant, they’re a good team…but I think we have a good team as well.” Indeed the Indians did play exceptionally well, especially their defense which held the dangerous Bryan offense to their lowest point total of the season, and 30 points under the Bears average points scored in 2013, which coming in to the game against Wauseon was 57.4 points per game.
The loss is Wauseon’s first of the season, making them 5-1 overall, and 3-1 in NWOAL play. Bryan moves their regular season winning streak to 18, and are now 6-0 on the 2013 campaign, and 4-0 in league play. Bryan faces another tough test as they travel to Patrick Henry next week to face the 5-1 Patriots.
Wauseon will look to bounce back with a win as they host the 1-5 Montpelier Locomotives for the Indians’ homecoming.
With the game being as exciting and evenly matched as it was, many are now hoping that a rematch is in store come playoff time. Will that wish come true? Many NWOAL football fans certainly hope so.
Mitchell Peebles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org