CLAYSVILLE – In no way did McGuffey coach Ed Dalton want to give a short field to the visiting Linsly Cadets in the waning moments of Friday night’s non-conference game, especially with the way the visitors from West Virginia chewed up real estate in the fourth quarter.
After the Highlanders took the lead on a spectacular Luke Wagner 14-yard touchdown catch from Rocco Falosk on fourth-and-nine with a little more than a minute remaining, kicker Nate Witkowsky booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds on the Cadets’ 44. Fifty-six yards were remaining and the Highlanders’ undefeated season was in trouble.
It took the Cadets a mere 50 seconds to travel the needed yardage to go ahead and defeat the Highlanders 27-20 in a pulsating contest. McGuffey remains undefeated in conference play but fall to 3-1 overall while the Cadets raised their mark to 3-2.
“We have to tackle better there,” Dalton noted. “They hit a post pattern and some sideline routes. We’re going to tackle this week in practice, for sure.”
Cadets quarterback Kobe Hill finished with 17 completions in 25 attempts for 271 yards and three scores. He put Linsly ahead for good with 25 seconds left with a 23-yard scramble up the middle to the end zone.
“It was a designed run that we hoped would keep us in the middle of the field. He ended up breaking it around the left side and scored,” Linsly coach B.J. Depew said. “The goal there was to get down there, run the clock down, keep in the middle of the field and kick a field goal if need be.”
Highlanders quarterback Rocco Falosk finished with 107 yards on 13 carries and two touchdown tosses. His 14-yard rainbow to Wagner appeared poised to put the Highlanders in the winners circle until Hill and friends proved otherwise.
Linsly announced early it would not be intimidated by the Highlanders when the marched 65 yards in six plays on its opening possession courtesy of Hill’s passing arm. The signal-caller found Zachai Simmons in the end zone from 10 yards out. Joao Lima’s kick was good and McGuffey trailed for the first time in several weeks, 7-0.
McGuffey appeared to tie the score at seven when Falosk scored from 24 yards out on their second drive of the game. But a holding penalty nullified the score. The Highlanders were stopped short of a first down on fourth-and-nine play from the Cadets’ 25.
The Highlanders’ defense seemed as if it righted their ship and held firm the rest of the half. McKinley Whipkey recovered a Cadets fumble on the Linsly 35 late in the first quarter. Several plays later, Falosk found Kyle Brookman down the seam for a 21-yard scoring connection early in the second quarter. Witkowsky’s point after attempt was true, knotting the game at seven.
Jared Johnson short-circuited Linsly’s next possession when he intercepted Hill deep in Highlanders territory and returned it to the 23. McGuffey marched into Linsly real estate, reaching the Cadets’ 26. The drive stalled there, forcing the Highlanders into a 43-yard field goal attempt that Witkowsky left short.
McGuffey had another chance to take the lead late in the half when Aidan Brookman fell on a Hill fumble at the Linsly 43. But the Highlanders could break the ice as their drive stalled outside field goal range to close the half.
The Highlanders opened the second half with a 13-play, 79-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes. But the Cadets’ defense stuffed Whipkey on fourth-and-goal from the 1, leaving the Highlanders with no points.
Linsly was forced to punt after three plays from their own 2. The punt traveled a measly 13 yards to the 15. Two plays later, Kyle Brookman swept in from 13 yards out to give the Highlanders a 14-7 lead late in the third.
The Cadets responded with a 67-yard Hill to Luca DiLorenzo scoring strike on their next drive. McGuffey was able to keep their lead at 14-13 thanks to a blocked extra point as the two squads headed into the final quarter.
Hill and company struck again on their next possession when the junior quarterback found a streaking Felix Reitter for a 57-yard touchdown catch and run. Their two-point pass attempt fell incomplete, leaving the Cadet lead at 19-14 midway in the fourth quarter.