NEWTOWN SQUARE — After Marple Newtown kicker Julian Farrer missed an extra point with nine seconds left in regulation that would have given the Tigers a one-point win over Strath Haven Friday night, coach Ray Gionta told Farrer he would get another shot.
The football team could of hung its collective head; the Tigers had trailed the entire game and just drove 63 yards in 14 plays, converting three fourth downs along the way, to tie the game with the Panthers.
Instead, the Tigers found the resolve to answer Strath Haven’s touchdown in overtime with one of their own, with Farrer kicking a perfect extra point to force double overtime.
The Tigers proceeded to score on their first chance on the second overtime before the Marple Newtown defense stopped the Panthers one yard short of the end zone to hold on for a dramatic 27-20 win.
“We knew we were going to have another opportunity, that’s what I told the kicker,’ Gionta said. “Our kid, to come back like that and make it at clutch time when he had to in the second overtime, was big.
“In sports, you always get another chance, for the most part. You need to shake something off. Not only did he do it, the rest of the kids did it. They showed a lot of resolve, a lot of persistence and a lot of will to win tonight.’
After Strath Haven running back Anthony Myers scored on a 3-yard touchdown plunge with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 13-7 lead, Strath Haven kicker Mike Fisher missed the extra point, opening the door for the Tigers’ late game come back.
Despite the amount of time left on the clock, Marple Newtown had a feeling that the drive could be their last chance.
“Get that touchdown,’ said Tigers’ running back Ross Binder, who scored the game-winning touchdown in double overtime. “Anybody, get it in the end zone. Everybody block for everybody, everybody run hard, everybody think straight. Everybody clicked together. Everyone worked as a team. We wanted that win.’
Facing a fourth-and-5 from the Strath Haven 37, Tigers’ quarterback Tommy Davis connected with Nik Rhoads on a key 28-yard reception that put Marple Newtown inside the Strath Haven 10. Facing yet another fourth-and-5, Tigers’ running back Abel Hoff swept off tackle and beat every Strath Haven defender to the pylon to pull the Tigers within one with nine ticks left on the clock.
“I didn’t realize we had that many fourth downs on that drive,’ Gionta said. “We were just calling plays trying to get a first down.’
Then came Farrer’s miss.
“For one second, we were a little (upset), then we got right back,’ Binder said. “I don’t know how to describe it. The team came back together like nothing happened.’
Following a Strath Haven touchdown to open overtime, Marple Newtown scored on its first play to draw back within one. After some deliberation about whether or not to go for the win with a two-point conversion, Gionta opted to let Farrer attempt the extra-point to force a second overtime.
“We were giving it a thought,’ Gionta said. “I didn’t have a great play call. We had already called our two-point play earlier in the game and I had more confidence in Julian than I had in the play call.’
The kick was right down the middle.
“We said, ‘ You can’t miss it twice,’ Binder said. “You got to trust the kicker.’
That trust paid off twice. Farrer hit the extra point that tied the game in the first overtime and, after Binder’s five-yard touchdown run gave Marple Newtown (1-1, 1-0) 27-20 lead (its first lead of the game), Farrer knocked that extra point through as well.
Strath Haven (1-1, 0-1) had a chance to tie the game in the second overtime when quarterback Bryan Mizell completed a fourth-down pass to running back Alex Bratsis, but the throw was short, Bratsis had to dive for it and he came up a yard short of the end zone.
The win helped erase the taste of Tigers’ season-opening defeat.
“We did awful the first game, there were so many mistakes,’ Binder said. “We did a great job of picking it up today. Amazing.’