Kicker Anthony Tocco is on the Utica Eisenhower varsity football team for the first time.
Friday night, with his team’s undefeated season on the line and visiting Romeo trying to freeze him with a timeout with two seconds to go, he was unfazed.
“That didn’t bother me at all,” said the diminutive soccer player. “I was a little nervous, but I can’t believe this happened. We’re having a special season and I wanted to keep it going.”
Tocco kicked the winning 36-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 16-14 victory. Coach Chris Smith’s crew improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the MAC Red, while Romeo, the defending Division 1 champion, fell to 3-2, 2-1 before a standing-room only crowd of 6,500 at Swinehart Field.
The only loss Romeo suffered last year was to Eisenhower — and the Bulldogs were 89 seconds from avenging the setback, when they scored on a two-yard TD run by Kade Messner to get within 13-12.
After a neutral zone infraction penalty on Ike, the Bulldogs rolled the dice and decided to go for two points and the win from 1-yard out. Medley plowed his way up the middle to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, 14-13.
“We’re a grind-it-out team,” said Romeo co-head coach Jason Couch. “I guess we left a couple of more seconds on the clock than we should have. It’s always a defensive game when we play Ike. The boys pounded it out and that’s our offense. There’s no give up. That’s why I love coaching these guys.”
But then Ike junior quarterback Max Wittwer went to work. He hit Jacob Albrecht with a five-yard pass, found Ryan Chargo with a 15-yard pass and got a nine-yard run from Jack Provencher. Another 15-yard pass to Chargo got the Eagles to the Romeo 34. And on his final throw, Wittwer hit Chargo again, getting the Eagles to the 19 to set up the game-winning field goal.
“I thought he did great in the first half too,” Smith said of Wittwer. “The problem was in the second half they kept the ball away from us. That’s the type of offense they run. They’re a control-the-ball type of offense. They’re trying to eat the time away and it was a great game plan by them.
“Tocco is a great soccer player and he’s really worked on it in the off-season and he’s never kicked a field goal in a game,” Smith added. “I didn’t talk to him. I left him alone. You leave kickers along. Our special teams’ coach told him to drive through the ball. He plays elite soccer and he’s used to playing in these types of games, pressure game.
“I had great confidence. I looked at our team and said this one’s going in.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.