John Bruce, Contributor
KINNIKINNICK — Isaac Little to Maddox Fox for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
No, it’s not a rerun that you’re seeing, but it happened again. This time from 40 yards out to pull off a miracle comeback over Zane Trace, 23-18.
Despite having the ball for 10 less minutes than the Pioneers, the Shermans (2-1, 2-1 SVC) found themselves in a familiar position with a chance to win the game.
“If this was a boxing match, we were getting bloodied that entire second half, but we just never went down,” Unioto Coach Matt Hoops said after the victory. “We just continued to fight and that’s why you play the whole 48 minutes.”
But, the only reason the Shermans had a chance to complete their comeback was that the defense came up with a big stop. James Ditmer, a senior with a constant motor, made the defensive play of the night when he sacked Pioneer quarterback Ben Nichols on fourth down with 49 seconds left to play.
“James is a kid who works hard, a wrestler who is just a tough kid,” Hoops when talking about Ditmer. “He’s the type of kid who you are glad is on your team.”
Following the fourth down stop, the Tanks called Maddox Fox’s number on three straight plays.
Little hit Fox on back-to-back passes to the sideline to put the Shermans on the Pioneer 40-yard line. The third time turned out to be the charm as Fox pulled a double move that got him the necessary separation for his second game-winning score in three weeks.
“Isaac made some great reads on that last drive, and of course on that last play, Maddox ran a great route and Isaac threw a great ball,” said Hoops.
The Pioneers would still have a chance after Nichols busted the ensuing kickoff out past the 40-yard line. But Unioto’s Byrd Green put the game on ice with an outstanding interception down the sideline with 13 seconds remaining.
Zane Trace was able to control the tempo of the game, including having the ball for 17 of the 24 second half minutes. The Pioneers (1-2, 1-2 SVC) rushed for over 250 yards, while milking the clock and limiting mistakes. The Shermans hurt themselves with penalties for the majority of the evening.
Unioto started the scoring off as Lucas Hanes drilled a 25-yard field goal to give his team an early 3-0 lead. The Pioneers answered back immediately behind the legs of Nichols, who stiff-armed a tackler and scored from 18 yards out to make it a 6-3 score after one quarter of play.
ZT extended its lead as senior Logan McDowell powered his way in the end zone from a yard out. Once again, the Pioneers were unable to convert the PAT try and led 12-3. Unioto then relied on their underclassmen as freshman Quinlan Netter dashed through ZT’s defense for touchdowns on back-to-back drives to give the Shermans a 17-12 lead at halftime.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Pioneers ran all over the Tanks with a steady diet of McDowell and Daniel Barnhart on the ground. McDowell, who finished with 63 yards on the ground, reached paydirt from three yards out for the Pioneers’ final score.
Little finished the game 11-of-19 passing for 159 yards and a touchdown. He also added 48 yards on the ground. Netter rushed for 72 yards and two scores, while Fox hauled in seven passes for 143 yards and the game-winning score.
Nichols ran for 100 yards on 14 carries and a score to lead the Pioneers, while Barnhart had 91 yards on 18 totes.
Zane Trace hosts Southeastern next Friday while the Shermans return home to battle with Paint Valley in a quasi-elimination game in the SVC race.
7:53 – U – Hanes 25 yard FG 3-0 U
3:59 – ZT – Nichols 18 yard run (kick failed) 6-3 ZT
11:14 – ZT – McDowell 1 yard run (pass failed) 12-3 ZT
4:41 – U – Netter 3 yard run (Hanes kick) 12-10 ZT
:53.7 – U – Netter 1 yard run (Hanes kick) 17-12 U
6:28 – ZT – McDowell 3 yard run (kick failed) 18-17 ZT
:30.6 – U – Fox 40 yard pass from Little (pass failed) 23-18 U
|34 rush – 162 yards
|Rushes – Rushing Yards
|50 rush – 253 yards
|9 penalties – 75 yards
|Penalties – Yards
|3 penalties – 23 yards