LEO — In a cold and rainy game that for 47 minutes was every kicker's worst nightmare, the final second was Zach Ferran's dream-come-true.
Ferran kicked a 35-yard field as time expired to force overtime. Moments later, he kicked the second field goal of his varsity career - a 23-yarder - for the winning points in Leo's 13-10 victory over Heritage.
“It was real nerve-wracking,” Ferran said of his game-tying kick. “I didn't have any idea (about what was going on). I just tried to stay calm.”
Ferran was not alone in his description of the final seconds. After Leo's Sam Waters was sacked at the 18 with around 10 seconds remaining, the Lions rushed into field goal position. As the clock hit 0:00 and Leo hiked the ball, several referees threw flags. It appeared that the Leo offense had too many players on the field, but the Heritage defense was just as frantic. Did the Patriots also have too many players on the field?
After a few tense minutes of discussion, the referee ordered that one second be placed on the clock, in time for one final snap.
“It was mass confusion; I don't really know what happened,” said Leo coach Jared Sauder. “All I know is what they told me: the call was delay of game and we'd get one second.”
Heritage coach Dean Lehrman refused comment.
Leo, ranked No. 2 in 4A, improved to 5-0. Heritage, ranked No. 13 in 3A, falls to 4-2.
Heritage won the coin-toss for overtime and Leo, after three plays, brought Ferran out for a relatively pressure-free kick.
“It certainly didn't compare to the first one,” Ferran said of his overtime kick. “A lot less stressful.”
The Leo defense then tackled Heritage halfback Wil Knapke for losses on first and second down and then defended a pass into the end zone on third down. Carson White trotted out onto the field for a 34-yard field goal that he subsequently missed. Leo's homecoming crowd stormed the field.
“Our guys never quit. They kept their heads in it,” Sauder said of his team. “This is big for our kids. To win a game like this? It shows a lot.”
A “game like this” was clearly a reference to the many mistakes that Leo committed. Heritage's only touchdown came one play after Leo's Rance Harris fumbled inside his own 5-yard-line. Defensive star of the game Cole Gerardot recovered and Jacob Roop rushed in on the next play from scrimmage for a 7-0 Heritage lead in the second quarter.
This turn of events came one play after the Leo defense stopped Heritage on fourth-and-goal on the Lions 6. The Patriots' field position then was courtesy of a blocked punt. Heritage's other score, a fourth quarter 27-yard field goal by White, came after Gerardot intercepted Waters. Gerardot would intercept Waters again in the final minutes.
“We put our defense in some bad positions,” Sauder said. “But our defense did great all night. In the end, they saved the day.”
In the final minute it was Heritage's turn to make a kicking mistake: on fourth-and-five on the Leo 41, the snap sailed over Knapke's hands and the race was on for the loose ball in Patriots' territory.
“Dillon (Thoman) tried to pick it up and run with it but it was like he was trying to throw it back to me,” said Leo's Trey Phillips. “I just jumped on it. I had it tight.”
Phillips recovered on the Heritage 21, setting up the final few seconds. Phillips said the bad snap by Heritage was just what Leo was looking on the rainy field.
“Crazy things happen at the end of games,” Phillips said. “We just didn't stop. We stayed positive all the way to the end.”