BAINBRIDGE – It was a gutsy gamble in the most crucial of game situations. But the eventual payoff was more than worth it.
Paint Valley defeated Newark Catholic, Saturday night at Paint Valley High School in a Division VI regional quarterfinal, 21-20, after converting a two-point try in overtime. If the Bearcats’ gamble had backfired, their season would have come to an abrupt halt.
“After we got the first down in overtime, coach (Brian) Cooper and I were talking and decided we had to win it right then and there,” Paint Valley coach Pete Hollon said. “To be truthfully honest, we probably should’ve put the game away early because I thought we really outplayed them in a lot of phases. But that’s credit to Newark Catholic. That’s why they’ve won nine state championships and appeared in 34 postseasons. They did not quit.”
Bearcats’ senior Caleb Johnson scored in overtime to cut Newark Catholic’s lead to 20-19. That’s when Hollon decided to called his fullback’s number for a second straight play. Johnson thanked him by plunging into the end zone to seal the win and propel the Bearcats into Week 12.
“I was just thinking if (quarterback) Anthony (McFadden) hands the ball to me and I don’t score, it’s the end of our season so I knew I had to score,” Johnson said. “The game was on me at that time. I didn’t know what to think. If we lost, I would’ve regretted it forever. But we won, so now I’ll remember this forever.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bearcats (10-1) took a 7-0 lead with 7:58 left in the second thanks to a 46-yard touchdown toss from McFadden to Tony Hatfield.
That lead would grow to 13-0 (blocked PAT) with 1:50 left in the first half when running back Teagan McFadden took a carry 14 yards into the end zone to cap off a 9-play, 73-yard drive that spanned 4:12.
However, the Green Wave (8-3) provided a quick answer.
Quarterback Kris Goodman led a 10-play, 43-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run from running back Wes Jurden with just 7.1 left in the second, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to 13-6.
The third was a mirror image of the first as neither team added to their point total. But in the fourth, Jurden struck again for the Green Wave — this time from a yard out — with just 2:28 left in regulation to tie the score and erase a 13-point deficit.
Paint Valley’s ensuing drive was stalled by penalties — a staple of the contest as the two teams combined for 19 flags for a total of 191 yards — before Newark Catholic regained possession with less than 30 seconds left on the game clock. The Green Wave decided to take a knee and opted to play for the win in overtime.
In OT, it took just three plays for Newark Catholic to take its first lead of the contest as Jurden scored a third time from three yards out to give the Green Wave a 20-13 edge.
That’s when Johnson and company provided the final touches on a magical night in Bainbridge.
“Just by the magnitude of who we played tonight, this is probably the biggest win we’ve had in our program’s history,” Hollon said, who’s in his 20th season as the Bearcats’ head coach. “We felt confident tonight. It’s really weird. Coach (Bill) Franks and I have known each other for 15 years. They’d come down to scout one of our scrimmages this year and we had told each other we thought we were going to play each other. But it’s a real special win when you beat a program of that caliber. We’ve seen a lot of magic here on our home field. We had some more tonight.”
In total, Paint Valley managed 322 yards of offense on 74 plays while Newark Catholic gained 165 on 47.
“We’ve been solid defensively the entire year,” Hollon said. “The last half of the season, coach Cooper has done a heck of a job. We’ve been lights out.”
Paint Valley will now play Fredericktown next Saturday at a site to be determined in a Division VI Regional Semifinal.