The most incredible eight seconds of football I’ve ever witnessed will followed by months of second-guessing, finger-pointing and head-shaking.
How did Josh Graham get so wide open? Did Graham go offsides on the final play? Why didn’t Rye punt on the previous drive? Why did Poughkeepsie go for the 2-point conversion? Were all those penalties against Rye legit?
There are dozens of questions from this game from the fourth quarter alone. In case you don’t know what happened, here’s what transpired:
Rye led 17-0 at the half and was 20-7 to start the fourth quarter before the Pioneers scored on three straight possessions, ending with Josh Graham’s miraculous 49-yard touchdown catch from Jarrid Williams as time expired. Williams had 202 yards in the game, most of which came in the second half, and three touchdowns.
Troy Wright’s 1-yard score with 3:30 left capped an 89-yard drive and pulled Poughkeepsie to within 20-13. The touchdown was set up by a totally legitimate pass-interference call in the end zone. The span on the extra point was low and the holder ran out but was tackled. Rye then went 3-and-out, running just 32 seconds off the clock was Poughkeepsie used two timeouts and an incomplete pass.
The Pioneers then went 66 yards in 58 seconds. Amazingly, Williams was 1 for 7 passing on the drive but was helped by a 30-yard completion on 4th-and-10 to Graham with 2:40 left and then a questionable pass-intereference foul on 4th-and-10 at the Rye 37. Graham broke a 23-yard score on the next play, making it 20-19 with 2:00 left. Poughkeepsie opted to run a “muddle huddle” where six guys are at the left hash, four are in the middle and one is split right. Williams took the snap and tried to throw a pass but was hit by Brendan Nagle as he released and it fell incomplete.
Poughkeepsie coach Ken Barger on the decision:
“We’ve been doing that. We figured that we’re on the road, we had to go for the win. We didn’t want to go to overtime. I stand by the call. I guess I went from zero to hero in the span of eight seconds.”
Once Rye recovered the onside kick, the game should have been over. Oh, it wasn’t.
With no Poughkeepsie timeouts left, Rye ran three plays up the middle and ran the clock down to 27 seconds. Facing fourth-and-6 at the Pioneers 46, Rye elected not to punt to Poughkeepsie’s dangerous return men and instead ran a play where Connor Eck was to roll right and eat up as much time as he could. He only got six seconds off before Reuben Frank (headed to UConn) slammed him down for a 5-yard loss.
Rye coach Dino Garr on the decision:
“We felt we could run some time off the clock and hopefully get a first down. A lot could go wrong on a punt. It could have gotten blocked or a bad snap or whatever. Do I second guess myself? No.”
Williams threw three straight incomplete passes — all overthrown with a Poughkeepsie receiver behind a leaping Rye defensive back — before the final play. With 8 seconds left at the Rye 49, Williams hit Graham on the left sideline about 20 yards downfield. Graham slipped through two defenders and burst into the end zone as the clock went down to 0:00.
Mayhem on one sideline. Total devastation on the other.
It’s hard to really describe the scene. As I looked out from the Rye sideline, I never would have known anybody was standing behind me. It was the quiested a thousand people could possibly be.
What will forever stick out in my mind was looking at the Poughkeepsie players’ faces after they shook hands. Three out of every five players was sobbing crying. The other two were choking back tears.
Barger’s take on the final play:
“We were trying to isolate Josh all game. The quarterback made a great throw and I was screaming ‘Get out of bounds. Get out of bounds. I guess it’s plays like that that make you look good as a coach. It was a special game.”
Garr didn’t have much nice things to say about the officiating. Rye, a team that rarely commits penalties, was flagged six times for 59 yards.
“I can’t be happy with the officiating,” Garr said he was smacked his hand down the table in his office after the game. He then turned to me: “Did you watch the game? Did you?”
Garr added: “Throughout this whole stretch, I always thought these last (seven) years that if we were going to lose, we’d lose it on the field. I don’t think we did.”
Graham was penalized for leaving the line too soon three times. But, I can tell you with my own eyes that he didn’t a whole lot more and got away with it.
Did he do it on the last play? It’s not impossible. I have to see the tape.
Overall, this was as memorable a football game as I’ve ever seen. It will be aired on MSG this weekend. I’ll post the date and time when I get it.
It’s a must watch.