Wildcats Win 2 OT Thriller Over Skyline

Adam Dean Howe
Enterprise Staff
By Adam Dean Howe
Enterprise Staff
It was a game for the ages and one that fans pay to see as the Wildcats amassed over 600 yards of total offense in a 66-64 dramatic double overtime win over the Tigers of Skyline at home last Friday night.  The 130 combined points between the teams is also confirmed as the 14th highest point total in MSHSAA history.
“As a player or coach, you probably only get 1-2 chances in your career to play in a game like this,” Warsaw coach Ryan Boyer said.  “It’s just always a little bit nicer when you come out on top.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Wildcats (6-3) were forced to punt and Skyline would strike first.  Tigers quarterback Lawson Beem used a 30 yard pass to Preston Scott to drive the ball deep into Warsaw territory and then on 4th and goal from the 4 yard line, Beem would find Scott again for the score.  The PAT was no good, but Skyline took the early lead, 6-0.
The Wildcats would answer though on a 94 yard drive led by quarterback Matt Couzens.  On 3rd down and 9, the Wildcats would draw a pass interference call that got their backs off of the wall and then the offense got things moving. Couzens converted another first down on a 1 yard dive and then another on a 3rd & 11 to Grayson Gregrich to move into Skyline’s side of the field.  Runs by Aidan Comer and Chase Steiner drove the ball into the redzone and then Couzens capped the drive when he went into the endzone from 12 yards out.  Comer’s 2-point try failed, but the score was knotted at the end of the first quarter, 6-6.
Skyline’s ensuing drive was halted by a big third down play when Wildcats defensive lineman Lane Bates tackled Scott for a 5-yard loss to force a Tigers’ punt. On another third down, Couzens found Gregrich for a 41 yard first down strike and the Cats offense was on the move again.  Comer would rumble for 32 yards for another Warsaw touchdown, Couzens was good on the 2-point conversion and Warsaw had their first lead, 14-6.
The Tigers (5-4) would start their next drive on Warsaw’s side of the field and they didn’t take long to capitalize.  After a Beem to Gage Gunter first down catch, Beem found Gunter again for a 7 yard touchdown. Beem converted the 2-point try with another pass to Gunter and halfway through the second quarter, this one was going to a barnburner as things were tied at 14-14.
Just 26 second later, the Wildcats would get that lead back.  Comer would have another run for 26 yards to take the ball into Tigers’ territory and then Couzens would find Gregrich again for a 35 yard touchdown pass.  Couzens converted another 2-point attempt and the Wildcats led, 22-14.
Skyline clawed their way back into things on their ensuing drive.  Beem would scramble for a first down to move the ball across midfield and, on the next play, he would find Scott again for a 43 yard touchdown pass.  This time, their 2-point attempt was no good and the Wildcats held the slim, 22-20 lead.
The Wildcats would stretch their lead out on their next possession.  After receiving the kickoff on their own 30 yard line, it would take just one play to hit paydirt when Comer took the handoff, ran around and over defenders and down the Skyline sideline en route to a 70 yard touchdown.  The 2-point attempt was no good, but Warsaw now led, 28-20 with time winding down in the first half of play.
Each team had uncharacteristic and uneventful drives to end the half and Warsaw held a one possession lead at the break, 28-20.
Skyline would receive the second half kickoff and covert on four first downs on their way to the endzone once again.  That drive was capped off with another Beem to Gunter touchdown.  The duo also combined for the 2-point conversion and the score was tied again, 28-28.
The game could have slipped away on the ensuing kickoff when it was fumbled by Steiner and recovered by the Tigers.  However, that’s when Boyer rallied the troops.
“Things could’ve gone real bad right there,” Boyer said.  “But we called a time-out there and told our kids to keep their composure; we just wanted to give them a minute to breathe.”
Regardless of the time-out, Skyline would go ahead and score on a 1 play drive when Beem found Gunter once again for another Tigers touchdown from 33 yards out.  Beem found Scott  for the 2-point conversion and Skyline had their first lead in a while, 36-28.
Warsaw would not be shook though.  On their next possession, it didn’t take them long to find the endzone again.  After a short completion to Steiner on first down, Couzens found him over the middle on 2nd and 8 and he would race across the goal line from 63 yards out for another Warsaw score.  Comer converted that 2-point try and the score was tied again, 36-36 with less than 4 minutes elapsed off of the clock in the second half.
The teams would trade punches one more time in the third quarter.  Skyline’s score would come on another Beem to Gunter touchdown and Warsaw’s came on a Couzens to Jack Gardner 7 yard touchdown.  Both 2-point attempts failed and, at the end of the third, the football faithful were getting just what they came for on a cold and windy night.
Skyline would take the lead again early in the fourth quarter when freshman Rickey Woodhouse scored on a touchdown run and converted the 2-point try to make the score 50-42 and things began to look bleak again when Couzens pass was intercepted on 2nd and 10, giving the ball back to the Tigers.  However, Warsaw’s defense would hold to force a punt and they would get the ball back.
That Wildcats drive ended though when a Couzens pass fell incomplete, giving the ball back to Skyline with just 5:16 remaining in the game.
Skyline would put their offense to work and try to grind out the clock for a victory, but that plan went awry when Woodhouse, who had been sure handed, had the ball knocked loose by Warsaw’s Tristen Reynolds on the Wildcats side of the field.  Austin Rosser would recover and Warsaw was back in business at their own 29 yard line.  Comer took the first play for 19 yards and another Warsaw first down, but then, on 3rd down and 8, Couzens pass attempt to Clayton Simons fell complete to force a do-or-die 4th down for the Wildcats.  After a short time-out called by the Warsaw sideline, the same duo redeemed themselves when Couzens found Simons over the middle for a 10 yard gain and another Warsaw Wildcats... first down. An untimely penalty, however, pushed the ball back to setup 1st and 20, but that’s when Couzens connected with Gregrich again, this time on a 52 yard touchdown.  The 2-point conversion was good and with just 1:42 left in the game, the score was tied 50-50.
Skyline would still get one more chance though.  After receiving the kickoff at their own 35 yard line, they would put together a series of runs to take the ball out to midfield.  A “questionable” pass interference call on 2nd and 1 awarded the ball to the Tigers on the Warsaw 31 yard line and 22 yards later, would setup the game winning field goal attempt on 4th and 1.  On the Tigers snap, the Warsaw rush was penetrable and the kick fell short to send the crowd into a frenzy and the game into overtime.  Why not?
Per MSHSAA rules, the teams would flip a coin for overtime possession.  The winner would get the choice to go on offense or defense first and, if defense, would still have the opportunity to answer by tying the game or winning.  Both teams would start on their opponent’s 20 yard line.
After winning the toss, Warsaw elected to go on defense first, which is usually the case because then the coaching staff gets a chance to see what they would need to do with their possession . . .
Skyline would run for a gain of 2 yards on their first play but then on their second, Beem would connect with Antonio Irizarry on an 18 yard touchdown pass. Beem would run in the 2-point attempt to give Skyline the 58-50 lead, but Warsaw still got their chance.
Beginning their drive on the 20 yard line, Comer would run for 4 yards and then, on 2nd and 6, he would roll for 19 more yards and a Warsaw first down.  A Skyline penalty gave the Wildcats 1st and goal from the 1 yard line and that’s when Comer crossed for another Warsaw score. Warsaw would use a time-out before the 2 point attempt, but afterwards, Comer would rumble in for the conversion to make the score 58-58 at the end of the first overtime period.
For the second overtime, roles would reverse and Warsaw would have the ball first.  After a false start penalty backed up the Wildcats, Couzens would run for a 5 yard gain. Comer would gain 8 yards on 2nd and 10 and then Comer would run for 7 yards and a first down on the next play.  Couzens would cap off that drive with a 10 yard touchdown run and Comer would convert the 2-point attempt to make the score 66-58, in favor of the green and black.
But the Tigers would get their chance.  On 1st down and 10, Beem would run for a gain of 9 yards and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Wildcats tacked on additional yardage, giving Skyline the ball, 1st and goal, at Warsaw’s 10 yard line. Woodhouse would run for a 3 yard gain and then Beem would take the ball in for the score on a 12 yard run, making the upcoming 2-point attempt beyond crucial.  The Tigers would turn to Woodhouse and hand him the ball, but he was stood up at the 1 yard line by the entire Warsaw defense, the 2-point try was no good and the Wildcats would escape with the 66-64 victory.
“We’ve told our kids all along that we have to be playing our best football at this time of year,” Boyer said.  “And tonight, I think we did that.”
“This is a great win for us. A great win for our program.”
This, the Wildcats fourth consecutive victory, is a feat that hasn’t been reached since the 2010 season.
Couzens completed 9 passes for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed 9 times for 66 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Gregrich was the recipient of 5 of those passes for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Steiner had 1 catch for 63 yards and a touchdown and Simons added 2 catches for 20 yards.  Gardner caught 1 pass for 7 yards and a touchdown.  Comer led the ground attack by turning in his second consecutive 200 yard rushing game.  He went for 207 yards on 28 attempts with 3 touchdowns.  Gregrich had 1 rush for 22 yards, Steiner had 7 rushes for 18 yards and Justin Martin ran 2 times for 10 yards.
As a team, the Wildcats offense successfully converted 6 2-point attempts.  That number tied them for 3rd place all-time in MSHSAA history.
On the defensive side, Reynolds notched 5.5 tackles and 1 forced fumble.  Nick Bagley recorded 5 tackles and 2.5 tackles each were added by Bates and Rosser.  Bates also had a sack and Rosser had a fumble recovery.
With the win, the Wildcats secured the number three position in their district and will face Stockton at home this Friday night in a game that affords them the opportunity to advance further into post season play.  Like always, that game time is 7:00pm and will be on Randy Morrow Field at the WHS campus.