As it’s been said here many times. “When you play on the road, especially far away on the road, you have to win “in spite of”. ”
This was never more true than Friday night when the Cougar Football team traveled to Vernonia for their final game of the season. The Cougars came into the game already having their most successful season ever with a record of 3-4. But the Cougars were also coming into the game banged up. Already missing standout defensive end Delano Morgan (broken leg) and hard hitting linebacker Myles McGovern (out with injured shoulder) the remaining cougars were all battling aches and pains. Add to the mix it’s Vernonia’s homecoming and senior night and this had all the ingredients for a final game flop.
The game did not start well for the Cougs as we went 3 and out on our first two offensive possessions of the game. In their second possession the Vernonia offense began to impose their will on the Cougs and with 2:40 left in the 1st Quarter Vernonia found the end zone going up 6-0. The only positive thing for the cougs was the blocked extra point which in the end was huge!
The Cougs didn’t fair well the next possession either and it was all Vernonia again as they moved the ball at will against a very “flat”
Cougar football team. Vernonia scored again and to start the 2nd quarter it was 12-0 Vernonia. Once again the only bright spot was a blocked extra point.
With 6:25 left in the 2nd quarter once again Vernonia found the end zone and it was 18-0 all Vernonia.
The look at the Seton sideline said it all. We were flat and it appeared as if we’d mailed it in for the season. The injuries, consecutive losses, offensive struggles the last several games, it all appeared to have taken it’s toll. But sometimes it only takes one play to light the spark, to find that champion fight in a team that has always had it. And with five minutes to go that play happened! Seton was at it’s own thirty and looking to get something going. From the shotgun Seton QB Deloney took the snap, had great protection and hit a sprinting Mike Silvera in perfect stride down the home team’s sideline for a 70 yard touch down pass! And from that moment it on it was Game On!
Vernonia got the ball back and looked poised to drive but the Coug D held and forced a punt. Vernonia pinned the Cougs on our 5 yard line and with 2:46 left in the half it looked as though the half may end with us down two scores. But Coach Ephraim saw something in the Vernonia defense that we could exploit. With a spread field and Taj Muhammad in the slot Coach E sent his wide receivers long and wide and sent Taj on a slant up the middle. QB Tay Deloney once again hit his receiver in perfect stride and it was a foot race from there! We all know very few people catch Taj from behind and it was a 95 yard touchdown pass! Longest pass play in Seton Catholic Cougar history!
Seth Moore converted his 2nd extra point of the game and the Cougs were back in it only down one score 18-14 to end the half.
In the third quarter Coach E looked to change the pace even more and put Seton senior “do everything” Jonathan Stell in at QB. Seton was at it’s own 20 when Stell dropped back, scrambled from pressure and sprinted 80 yards down our own sideline for an amazing touchdown run. Here’s where the “win in spite of” comes in. The Touchdown was called back on a flag thrown at least 40 yards from the play by a ref on the opposite side of the field the alleged penalty occurred. This didn’t phase the Cougs one bit as on the very next play Stell hit senior Josh Vick on a slant across the middle and Josh took it to the “house” to give the Cougars the 21-18 lead with 9 mins left in the third!
Vernonia answered back with a strong touchdown drive of their own and with six mins left in the third it was 26-21 Vernonia after their two point conversion. Once again the Cougs answered and with strong runs, and passes including a 19 yard pass play to Matt Kent that set up a 20 yard pass play to Taj Muhammad from Deloney to give the Cougs a 28-26 lead with 2:13 left in the 3rd.
The third quarter ended with the Cougs in the lead but Vernonia driving. Vernonia powered into the end zone with 11:50 left in the final quarter and took at 32-28 lead.
The game took a defensive tone after that with both teams limiting each other to very little success on the offensive side of the ball. With just over 3 mins left the Cougs had the ball, were facing a 4th and long at mid field. Coach E called a slant for Senior Jonathan Stell across the middle. The ball slightly behind him, Stell managed to tip the ball, avoid the defender, catch the ball, and run for 30 yards for a Seton first down. Tack on 15 yards for a defender hitting Stell out of bounds and it was first and goal for the cougs! Two plays later Stell would not be denied as he powered through the arm tackles and put the Cougs up 34-32! Moore cleaned it up with his final extra point of the season and finishing the game 5 for 5 on extra points! The Cougs led 35-32 with 3 mins left.
Vernonia took the kickoff and had the ball near mid field. The Cougs held and with 2 mins left looked to have the game in hand has they ran the ball to run out the clock. The Cougs got one first down and had the ball with 58 seconds left with a 3rd and about 7. But the Cougs fumbled the pitch and it was Vernonia ball 1st and 10 with 40 yards to go. Another controversial penalty, then a mysterious stoppage of the clock with 18 seconds left and Vernonia was knocking on the door again. But the defense held, the clock ran out and chaos broke out as the Vernonia coaching staff stormed the referees. There was no mid field handshake and the Seton players were ordered to the bus right away by the coaching staff.
It was a great high school game to see! Once again the Seton fans traveled well and along with our outstanding Cheer Team provided that 12th man that we needed to win a game like this on the road!
Coach Ephraim was very pleased with the way his team responded and showed the championship mentality that they began the season with. He was proud that they stepped up and fought after having faced some real adversity over the last several weeks. Coach E says his team can use this to build on as next season starts now!
Click Links below for highlights of Cougs final game!