By Jeremy Balan
OAKLAND – Sacred Heart Cathedral sophomore kicker Maxwell Tenhoff’s first field goal in overtime sailed easily through the uprights, but it was accompanied by a high-pitched whistle coming from the Bishop O’Dowd sideline.
The Dragons called a timeout just before the ball was snapped and the 21-yard kick that would have tied the non-league matchup at 30-30 was waved off.
But the Dragons weren’t icing the young kicker. They were making adjustments.
After the timeout, O’Dowd loaded the left side of the line of scrimmage, and the new alignment paid off.
O’Dowd senior Dominic Gomes broke into the Irish backfield untouched, dove toward the ball and blocked Tenhoff’s second kick as it left the sophomore’s foot, sealing a 30-27 O’Dowd victory on Friday.
“They had blocked an extra point earlier and our sideline was yelling, ‘overload, overload,'” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “They made the play when they needed to, but we were in the driver’s seat to put the game away.”
O’Dowd kicker Eric Schwartz put the Dragons (3-1) up with a 26-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime before the dramatic finish, but the Irish (1-2) were in control late into the fourth quarter.
Despite being outgained 429-267, Sacred Heart held a two-touchdown lead until the 4:59 mark of the fourth quarter, when Gomes caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from O’Dowd quarterback Dominic Miroglio to cut the Irish lead to 27-20.
Sacred Heart then went three-and-out on the next drive, and O’Dowd’s other quarterback, Kevin King, connected with Jelani Baines for a 37-yard score to tie the game with 1:53 remaining.
With plenty of time to drive down the field for a game-winning score, Sacred Heart advanced as far as the O’Dowd 35-yard line, but a fourth-down pass from Irish quarterback Jerry Peralta to fellow senior Matt Hewitson fell incomplete to end the drive. Unfortunately, the play had deeper consequences than the result on Friday night.
Peralta found Hewitson open over an O’Dowd linebacker, but slightly overthrew him. Hewitson dove for the ball and caught it in the air, but came down on top of the ball with the full force of his body, causing it to squirt out of his hands. Hewitson then left the field in immense pain.
“That throw to Matt — he came down on it and the trainers said he broke his collar bone,” Lee said. “So, it sounds like Matt is done for the year. My heart goes out to him, because of how hard he worked in the offseason. The trainers think it’s a break, but I’m going to hope it’s a strain. He needs to go to the doctor to find out.”
That was the closest Peralta would come to a completed pass in the second half, as the Irish attempted just five passes in the final 24 minutes and completed none.
Peralta was effective on the ground, however, and ran for a team-high 135 yards on 22 carries. Fifteen of those carries came in the second half and he ran on all three offensive plays in Sacred Heart’s overtime possession, but only got to the O’Dowd 4-yard line, setting up the final play.
Even though the Irish ran 27 run plays in the second half and didn’t take a shot at the end zone through the air during the overtime possession, Lee said his play calling was not conservative.
“The critics can say all they want, and I enjoy that, because it’s usually from people who don’t know the game,” Lee said. “I don’t think it was [conservative]. We came out and made our adjustments and talked, as a staff, about what we wanted to do. We had our opportunities to throw the ball and we didn’t capitalize.”
Peralta racked up the most yards, but there was no doubt who the best player on the field was for the Irish.
Junior Brett Rasso ran for 96 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries, consistently gave the Irish tremendous field position with punt and kick returns, and made what appeared to be the play of the game early in the fourth quarter.
After Rasso’s third score of the game on a 30-yard run that gave the Irish a 27-14 lead, the Dragons drove down to the Sacred Heart 5-yard line. O’Dowd running back Isaiah Johnson, who ran for a game-high 136 yards on 26 carries, plowed forward to the Irish 1-yard line, but Rasso stripped the senior, and without the ball hitting the ground, returned the fumble to midfield.
After his final score, however, Rasso touched the ball on offense just three times in the fourth quarter and the Dragons scored 16 unanswered points to win the game. The Irish only had 105 yards of total offense in the second half.
“We kept giving the ball back to a very good football team,” Lee said. “It was complacency and that’s something we address every day – that mental toughness. You can’t win a game in the first, second or third quarter, you have to play four quarters of football. Once again, we played three.”
The nagging issues of depth and fatigue again hurt the Irish late in a game, as Rasso and seven other starters play both offense and defense.
“It’s going to happen,” Lee said of Sacred Heart’s fatigue late in games. “If you look at our skill guys, they all go both ways. Out of 34 [players], we dressed 31. Then we have two key injuries and we’re down to 29.”
The blocked field goal ended the game, but just seven plays before, both teams considered finishing without a winner.
On the first play of overtime, King, who took occasional snaps at quarterback, ran for a 3-yard gain, but was hit hard and fumbled the ball. The Dragons recovered the fumble, but King remained motionless on the turf for almost 20 minutes following the play.
King eventually got back on his feet with help from trainers and was taken off the field in a cart, and both teams agreed to finish the game.
“The original indication was that they were going to call [the game],” Lee said. “Their athletic director felt that the injury sustained by [King] was so severe that they were going to call it. I was fine with that. They thought the injury was a lot worse than it was, then the kid sat up.”
BOD: 11:44 – Wayne Thomas 95-yard kick return (Eric Schwartz kick)
SHC: 6:06 – Brett Rasso 14-yard run (Maxwell Tenhoff kick)
SHC: 1:24 – Jerry Peralta 10-yard run (Tenhoff kick)
SHC: 0:35 – Rasso 6-yard run (kick blocked)
BOD: 0:02 – Thomas 40-yard pass from Dominic Miroglio (Schwartz kick)
SHC: 1:48 – Rasso 30-yard run (Tenhoff kick)
BOD: 4:59 – Dominic Gomes 34-yard pass from Miroglio (kick blocked)
BOD: 1:53 – Jelani Baines 37-yard pass from Kevin King (Schwartz kick)
BOD: Schwartz 26-yard field goal