LaGRANGE — For a split second, it appeared there would be a second overtime Friday night.
On a high snap following Buckeye’s game-tying touchdown, holder Nathan Polidori grabbed the ball and rolled out to his right. He was met by a scrum of Keystone defenders at around the 1-yard line.
Before Polidori was ruled down, the ball squirted free and rolled into the end zone, where sophomore linemen Kyle Svagerko pounced on it for an unconventional two-point conversion.
After the officials conferred at midfield, they ruled that the conversion stood, giving the visiting Bucks a wild 29-27 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win.
The win kept Buckeye (5-4, 5-1) alive for a share of the Stars Division title, while the loss prevented Keystone (6-3, 5-1) from winning its first outright conference title since 1971.
“Our kids fell on the ball a lot tonight, and that helped us,” said first-year Buckeye coach Mark Pinzone, whose team recovered two fumbles and picked off a Tyler Gullett pass. “Nathan Polidori plays defensive back for us and some receiver. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s a great, heady kid. We rely on him for a lot of things.
“It was a high snap, but fortunately, he handled it, he rolled out and tried to make something of it, which is what he does. It didn’t look pretty, but it fell our way and that’s that.”
Keystone, which went on offense first in overtime, only took three plays to score and gain its second lead of the night. A 17-yard scramble by quarterback Tyler Gullett (23 carries, 138 yards) set up junior Tyler Polen’s 4-yard touchdown run.
However, the extra point snap was short. Keystone’s holder tried to run, but pitched it back to kicker Turner Geisel, whose desperation pass fell incomplete well short of the end zone.
Buckeye took over and a 9-yard run by Fortney on third down made it first-and-goal from the 6.
Fortney (31 carries, 167 yards) took four straight Wildcat snaps. He gained 2 yards on first down, 3 on second, was held to no gain on third down and used a great second effort to bulldoze his way into the end zone on fourth down to tie the score at 27.
“We decided to call, ‘Wham,’ which is where the guard pulls over and I fake (the handoff) and just run straight up the middle,” Fortney said. “The goal is to get into the end zone as fast as possible — no jukes, no nothing. We knew it was going to work the whole time, but it took us four downs to do it.”
Unlike the NFL, where the “Dave Casper Rule” states that a fumble can’t be advanced or become a score, high school football has no such rule. It’s up to the officials to determine if the ball was deliberately batted forward or not, and they determined the fumble was not deliberate.
“They said that on a two-point conversion you’re allowed to fumble forward into the end zone,” Keystone coach Rob Clarico said. “I think that we played better in the second half than we did in the first half. I think we were passive and not physical enough in the first half, and against a good football team like Buckeye, you have to bring it all four quarters.”
Buckeye jumped to a 6-0 lead after recovering an attempted opening onside kick and going 45 yards in three plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Trevor Thome.
After a 30-yard field goal attempt by George Rusinko went wide right, Keystone got the big play it needed early in the second quarter. Polen took a handoff up the middle and raced untouched for an 80-yard touchdown.
A 74-yard pass from Petek to Jeff Susalla down to the 1 set up Fortney’s first touchdown on the next play. Using the same “Wham” play that worked a play earlier, Fortney added the two-point conversion to make it 14-7 Buckeye with 7:16 left in the first half.
Keystone answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Gullett kept it himself from a yard out with 3:06 left in the first half.
An interception by Petek on Keystone’s first possession of the second half led to Fortney’s second touchdown of the game, from 25 yards out. But Gullett broke free on a 64-yard touchdown run with 6:42 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 21.
“Cody Fortney’s ran the ball hard all year,” Pinzone said. “He’s played in pain, and we lean on him every week. But like I said, even though Cody’s the guy with the ball in his hands, and that’s what everyone is watching in the stands, I don’t want to take anything away from the guys on our front line. They do a fantastic job.”
Keystone had a chance to take the lead in regulation, putting together a 12-play, 78-yard drive that melted 6 minutes off the clock and moved the Wildcats from their own 17 to the Buckeye 5. But Gullett’s option pitch to Polen fell short and was recovered by Buckeye’s Polidori to end the threat.
Contact Dan Gilles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 29, Keystone 27 (OT)
BUCKEYE 6 8 7 0 8 — 29
KEYSTONE 0 14 7 0 6 — 27
B — Trevor Thome 18 run (Kick failed).
K — Tyler Polen 80 run (Turner Giesel kick).
B — Cody Fortney 1 run (Fortney run).
K — Tyler Gullett 1 run (Giesel kick).
B — Fortney 25 run (George Rusinko kick).
K — Gullett 64 run (Geisel kick).
K — Polen 4 run (Pass failed).
B — Fortney 1 run (Kyle Svagerko fumble recovery in end zone).