Prior to last Friday night, the Harrison County Thorobreds football team had never won an overtime contest. They had lost all four OT games they had been involved in, dating back to 1981.
They are now 1-4 in games that were not decided in regulation time.
On Friday night, the Harrison County defense came up big, time and again, and a Van Isaac 10-yard touchdown scamper sealed the win on the Breds first offensive play in OT to secure the Breds first district football title since 2001, beating visiting Franklin County, 13-7.
“I can’t tell you how big a win that is for us,” said Harrison County Head Coach Aaron Stepp after the game. “Our defense played great all night long. I began preparing for this game four weeks ago and it all came together just as planned.”
After studying Franklin County in the weeks leading up to the game on Friday, Stepp concluded that the Flyers might be susceptible to an option running attack.
“The option is something they had not seen all year long and it is something that we have in our offensive scheme,” he explained. “I did not want to get in a shoot out with them where we tried to match scores with them. I felt like if we could control the ball and keep their offense off the field, limit possessions, that they might feel a little pressure and make some mistakes.”
As it usually happens in big games, it was those mistakes that eventually determined the outcome.
The first mistake of the night made by the Flyers came on their second possession of the game.
Following his script of controlling the ball and the clock, Stepp’s Thorobreds took over on downs at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter. Eight minutes and 26 seconds later, after a 17-play drive, Harrison County failed to get in the end zone after having it first goal on the Flyers four yard line.
The Harrison County defense picked up the offense and got the Breds on the scoreboard though.
After the Flyers first play from the two yard line lost one yard, a host of Breds swarmed Franklin County quarterback Sean Thompson, causing a fumble that sophomore Caleb Reeder pounced on in the end zone for a 7-0 Harrison County lead.
“Their offense was backed up and had not been on the field for over eight minutes, it was cold, it was rainy, it was just an uncomfortable situation for their offense to be in,” explained Stepp. “That situation was exactly the situation that we wanted them to be in, considering all the circumstances”
The score stayed that way until a gaffe by the Breds changed the momentum of the game.
After forcing the Flyers off the field with a three-and-out to start the second half, the Harrison County offense took over on its own 30 yard line.
After running nearly four minutes off the clock while picking up just one first down and moving the ball to their own 46 yard line, the Breds were faced with a fourth-and -four situation. Instead of punting and pinning the Franklin County offense deep inside its own territory, the Breds inexplicably ran the ball on fourth down and came up well short of the first down.
The Flyers, now rejuvenated with a sense of hope, promptly marched 46 yards in eight plays to score the tying TD on a 20-yard pass from Thompson to running back Leland Robinson.
“I told the kids after the game that they overcame a bone-headed play call by their coach,” said Stepp. “No way did I want to run a play of any sort on fourth-and-four from midfield, especially the isolation play that we wound up running. What happened is I meant to tell Van to run “freeze”, which is a play where we don’t run a play at all and try to get the defense to jump offside, but I misread my own play sheet and told him to run the play he eventually ran. He looked at me kind of funny at the time, but I said, “run the play.” Nobody was more surprised than me when it turned out the way it did. It was nobody’s fault but mine.”
Robinson came up big for the Flyers on the Breds ensuing possession when he intercepted Isaac to give Franklin County possession inside Harrison County territory at the 46 yard line.
Once again, the Harrison County defense met the challenge and turned the Franklin County offense away.
To start the fourth quarter, Harrison County appeared to be marching toward a go-ahead score, but was sidetracked by a big holding penalty that the Breds were unable to overcome.
Franklin County took over on its own six yard line with 7:25 remaining, following a Bobby Feeback punt. This time, the Flyers methodically drove the ball down the field and threatened to win in regulation.
With 39 seconds left in the game, senior linebacker Chase Johnson stepped in front of a Thompson pass and intercepted the ball, ensuring overtime.
“In a game like this, it takes big plays to get the job done, and Chase made a big time play,” said Stepp. “He read the formation and route perfectly and made the play just like he was supposed to.”
In overtime, Harrison County won the coin toss and opted to go on defense first. Robinson was stopped three straight times, the last two from inside the five yard line, to turn the ball over to the offense with a chance to win.
Isaac executed a perfect fake to the fullback, Johnson, and raced, untouched, into the end zone to secure the win for the Breds.