By Matt Nestor
It was a cold, dreary Saturday in Cary. Intermittent sprinkles of rain with high, swirling winds made the weather miserable.
But nobody cared as overtime was winding down, and Boylan found themselves in a precarious position in their IHSA Class 6A quarterfinal game.
Tied at 14 to end the fourth quarter, the Titans scored a touchdown on their first play in overtime on a 10-yard touchdown by Tyreis Thomas. But Boylan missed the extra point, meaning if Cary-Grove could score and hit their extra point, the season was over.
After two great stops by the Titans’ defense, the Trojans saw themselves faced with a fourth down from the Boylan 5-yard-line. Cary-Grove, which had only thrown one pass the entire game, tried to catch Boylan off guard and had quarterback Corey Laktas attempt a pass.
With a receiver open in the end zone, however, Conference Player of the Year Chris Miller leaped in front of the Trojans’ target, got enough of the ball to tip it away, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground, enabling Boylan (12-0) to eke out a 20-14 overtime win and a spot in the state semifinals.
“That was too close. Way too close. My mind is just freaking out right now,” senior Grant Flodin said after the tight finish. “They tried passing the ball. Somebody tipped it, which was good, because he was there.”
Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said he did not enjoy overtime until it was over. He said against a team like the Trojans, you can’t feel comfortable until the game is done.
“It’s just horrible,” he said. “I’m losing years off my life. But that’s all right. It’s fun to be on this side of it and get a break there at the end.”
The win was a relief in more ways than one for the Titans, who have not been this far in the playoffs since losing in the semifinals in 2000. This was a game that was mostly dominated by the Titans.
Boylan outgained Cary-Grove by 154 yards of offense. What kept the game close was early Boylan turnovers and penalties.
The game started well for Boylan, who marched the opening drive 68 yards down to the Trojans’ 5 and appeared poised to score. But a fumble by Thomas gave the ball to Cary-Grove.
The Titans seemed to hold the Trojans to a three-and-out after the turnover, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on Boylan gave the Trojans new life. They took advantage by finishing off the 95-yard drive when Laktas went in from 1 yard out to give them a 7-0 lead.
“That was huge, because they put together a great drive after that (penalty) and scored,” Appino said. “You can’t give a great team chances like we did there.”
Boylan came back fast, however, scoring touchdowns on two of their next three drives. Miller scored each time, the first time capping a seven-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown and later scoring a 23-yard run to give Boylan a 14-7 lead.
After another defensive stop, the Titans prepared to get the ball back with just under a minute left in the second quarter. But a Boylan returner mishandled the punt and the Trojans recovered. Four plays later, Ryan Mahoney scored from 5 yards out to tie up the game at the half.
Both teams saw long drives stall in the third quarter. The Trojans punted on the second play of the fourth quarter, and Boylan took over on their own 13.
What ensued was nearly the worst heartbreak imaginable for Boylan had the game not gone in their favor.
The Titans embarked on a masterful drive. Twenty plays and 79 yards, eating up 10 minutes of clock in the fourth quarter and were in position to win the game in regulation.
The first mistake came on a third-and-goal from the 6. Miller appeared to go in for his third touchdown of the game when a late flag for holding brought it back.
Thomas, who ran for 142 yards and had 164 total yards from scrimmage, ran for 8 yards to set up a 25-yard field goal try to give the Titans the lead. Boylan missed the field goal in the tough winds, however, and Cary-Grove took over.
“We always try to have good drives and score at the finish,” Thomas said. “Whether we are in practice or not, we always try to finish. Not finishing that was very frustrating.”
The Boylan defense responded, however, with the game on the line. After a big run moved the Trojans out to their own 35 and ready to try to move themselves into field goal position, Boylan stuffed three straight runs to help set up the overtime.
“I’m really proud of our defense the way they responded after we missed that field goal,” Appino said. “Instead of getting their heads down, thinking ‘Oh boy, here we go,’ they just had a huge stop.”
“I kept waiting for them to have a turnover, but they were just so solid with the ball today, it was amazing,” Appino added.
For Thomas, he was just happy to get one last chance to redeem himself in overtime for his costly fumble on the Titans’ first drive.
“I think that woke me up,” Thomas said. “The fumble on the first drive, I had to get my head in the game. It wasn’t all the way in the game. And then to finish it with the touchdown, I think that is really good. It was just all emotions, and I knew I needed determination to get that touchdown.”
From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue