When the Springfield Catholic Fightin’ Irish defense lined up to try to block a 31-yard field goal attempt by Reeds Spring’s Henrique Carvalheira Friday night, there were more than just 11 Irish players trying to stop the attempt.
There were Catholic players and teams of the past, along with a history that didn’t include a football conference championship.
It all came together for Catholic with 36 seconds left as Carvalheira’s attempt never had a chance and was smothered by the hands of so many defenders.
As a result, the Fightin’ Irish knocked off conference leader Reeds Spring 16-14 to share the small COC championship three ways with Reeds Spring and Bolivar. The trio finished at 5-1 in the conference.
The history-making win brought tears to the eyes of coach Steve Hancock as he reflected on the win.
“It feels great. We’ve been working our tails off for three years and it’s starting to come together,” he said as he tried to fight back the emotion of the moment.
In a game that featured 76 running plays, the two teams slugged it out like a couple of veteran boxers.
After taking a 10-7 lead into the locker room, Catholic came back out in the second half and traded more ground game punches with the Wolves.
It wasn’t until Tyson Riley scored his second touchdown of the night on a 9-yard run with 5:55 left in the third quarter that it finally looked like Catholic had a safe lead, but this game was going to go down to the wire, and Hancock knew why.
“We were in the red zone several times and we couldn’t get it in; we couldn’t score. Normally, when that happens it comes back to hurt you. It almost did,” he said.
It wasn’t until 5:35 in the fourth quarter that Blake Gronvold, Reeds Spring’s sophomore quarterback, ran 57 yards up the middle to score and put the Wolves within 16-14.
Catholic couldn’t kill the clock and gave the ball back to Reeds Spring with 3:31 at the Catholic 43.
Nine plays later, Reeds Spring was ready to attempt a field goal, but not before Catholic called three straight time outs in an attempt to freeze the kicker.
“The players knew what was on the line. They knew what they had to do,”’ he said
The first half, played in just 41 minutes thanks to 41 running plays and four pass attempts, found both teams trying to grind it out on the ground.
Catholic struck first on a 2-yard run by Riley at the 6:14 mark in the first quarter after the Fightin’ Irish took over on the Wolves’ 13. Neither team scored again until Ryan Miller kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the second half to put Catholic up 10-0.
Reeds Spring showed some life on its next possession with a 13-play march helped with a face mask penalty called on Catholic to keep the drive alive.
After the Wolves nearly lost the ball on a fumble, Blake Gronvold found a wide-open JP Gardner wide open down the left sideline and connected with a 30-yard touchdown strike to close the gap to 10-7 at halftime.
Reeds Spring 0 7 0 7 – 14
Catholic 7 3 6 0 – 16
Catholic: Tyson Riley 2 yd run (Ryan Miller kick)
Catholic: Ryan Miller 37 yd field goal
Reeds Spring: JP Gardner 30 yd pass from Blake Gronvold (Henrique Carvalheira kick)
Catholic: Tyson Riley 9 yd run (2pt failed)
Reeds Spring: Black Gronvold 57 yd run Henrique Carvalheira kick)