Bishop Dwenger beats New Haven by running behind Joe Tippmann
A pair of fourth-down plays determined the outcome
As it should during a playoff game between two good teams, the Class 4A sectional semifinal between New Haven and Bishop Dwenger was decided by a pair of fourth-down plays, the kind that will either haunt or be remembered fondly forever. The Bulldogs weren’t able to convert on their play, and the Saints were able to move the pile just enough on their chance.
Both plays were mostly decided by one person.
Bishop Dwenger’s Joe Tippman needed all 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds of his might on both plays to give the Saints a 13-7 win at Saint Francis’s D’Arcy Stadium. On a cold, wet night where everything had to come up the middle, it was his kind of night, and he owned it.
Leading 6-3 at halftime, the Bulldogs went for a fourth-down at the Bishop Dwenger 6-yard-line with 5:00 remaining in the third period. New Haven needed 2 yards but managed to move the Saints only 1. After the pile of bodies were pulled off each other, the Saints took over at their own 5.
Neither team could do anything outside because of slippery footing, and throwing the ball was a mystery because of inaccuracy and numb hands. The Bulldogs could have iced the game with a score. Instead, they let the Saints hang around. The game was all about turnovers and field position, and the Bulldogs made the final, critical mistake.
Facing a fourth-and-8 at its own 22-yard line, New Haven was forced to punt with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter of a tie game. For the second time in the game, the Bishop Dwenger defense blew up the punt, though, this time as T.J. McGarry slipped a block and chased down Bulldogs punter James Gardner. The Saints took over at the New Haven 7-yard-line.
Playing cautiously, the Saints kept pushing the ball inside with Chip Clark trying to find a hole. The Saints faced a fourth-and-1 at the New Haven 1-yard line with 3:41 remaining. Everyone knew this was the ballgame, and everyone also knew Clark would be carrying the ball right up Tippmann’s back if he didn’t open a hole. The Bulldogs knew it, the officials knew it, the fans knew it.
“We just knew that we could get the push and a good lead block,” Saints coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “We didn’t come that far to kick. It was less than a yard and our guys, there wasn’t any doubt in their mind. They would have been disappointed if we had kicked, I think. It would have been a slap in their face.”
With help from left guard Nick Hosier, Tippmann pushed forward just enough to give Clark a crack to squirt through with 3:37 remaining.
“Those guys have been getting off the ball very well all year,” Svarczkopf said. “We like to run behind Joe if we can. ”
Who wouldn’t? Tippmann blocks out the sun and any opponents who get in his way, and the Bulldogs did a great job all night of throwing every body part they could at him, and from several bodies.
“I think we just called on the defense one too many times,” New Haven coach James Rowland said. “We went head-to-head with Bishop Dwenger two years in a row. We won one last year and this year we just couldn’t pull it off.”
The Saints, 8-3, will host Wayne, 5-6, for the sectional title on Friday, against at St. Francis. Now the Generals have to figure out what to do with Big Joe.