Kickers can sometimes win a game
Submitted by Brian Hillabush on September 13, 2008 - 5:38pm
With the rain coming down in buckets Saturday afternoon, it was difficult for either the Notre Dame or Attica football teams to hold onto the football.
But on one key occasion, the Fighting Irish won the game because of the job of the long snapper, holder and kicker.
Matt Thompson's extra point in the final minutes wound up being the play of the game as Notre Dame edged visiting Attica 27-26.
Holder Kevin Francis had issues holding the placement on Thompson's two previous kicks - a shanked 42-yard field goal attempt and an extra point attempt which turned into a botched play.
But after Francis scored a game-tying touchdown with 2 1/2 minutes left, Rick Lair had a perfect snap to Francis, who placed the ball for Thompson, who cashed the game winning kick.
"I just knew I had to dry my hands, relax and get it down so Thompson could kick it," Francis said.
Thompson has hit plenty of big kicks for Notre Dame in his high school career, but this ranks at or near the top for the junior.
"I had faith in Rick Lair and Kevin Francis," Thompson said. "I just went through my routine, followed through and made it. It was any other PAT. I knew what I was doing."
The kick was the biggest play, but there were several in the comeback effort by ND, one that could have possibly escalated the Fighting Irish into league title contenders.
"In this league, any win is coveted," ND coach Rick Mancuso said. "The competition is very steep. We are very fortunte to have come out in the second half and put forth the effort we needed to do for the win. I'm very proud of these guys."
The larger Attica squad got a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Rollings to Brock Minnick early in the first quarter. After the extra point attempt was missed, Notre Dame answered back with a Mike Pratt 1-yard TD run.
Thompson added the extra point for the 7-6 lead.
Attica then started taking control of the contest.
Shawn Dupuis returned a punt 65 yards for a score, Luke Pariso intercepted a pass and Dave Jennings scored to give the Blue Devils a 20-7 halftime lead.
Pratt - who finished with 115 yards and three TDs on 22 carries - dove in from a yard out to start the second half after Francis returned the opening kickoff 60 yards.
Notre Dame got an intereception by Greg Barr and was off and running again. After Pratt ripped off a 31-yarder, Kevin Schildwaster dove in the end zone after finishing off an 11-yard scamper.
The rain had turned from a slight drizzle into a full-out downpour at this point.
This was when the extra point snap was bobbled and Thompson had to throw the ball way before the old "linebacker kills kicker" thing happened.
Attica and Notre Dame had some struggles until the rain started slowing down a little bit early in the fourth quarter.
Rollings had a 70-yard run on a quarterback keeper for Attica. Notre Dame was penalized half the distance to the goal line because of a facemask call.
On a first-and-goal at the 5, Andy Ruddock eased his way into the end zone. The conversion run failed and Attica led 26-20 with about 10 minutes left.
The two squads exchanged punts and the Fighting Irish started a drive with just over six minutes left on the clock at their own 42, knowing it was now or never.
Without a touchdown, they were going to fall to 0-2 and basically be eliminated from contention in the race for the Genesee Region League title.
There weren't any big yardage plays, but there were two big penalty plays on the drive.
Attica was called for pass interference after an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-3, then jumped offsides on the next play.
Junior quarterback Nick Bochicchio couldn't get a grip on the ball on a first-and-goal from the 9, but shoveled it to Francis, who took scored a touchdown that tied the game at 26 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
"It was raining the entire second half and we weren't throwing," said Francis, who caught six passes for 32 yards. "We tried to catch them off their feet. Bo didn't really throw it, it was like a baseball toss. I saw an opening and got in."
Thompson, who is a true kicker and attended several camps over the offseason, then drained the kick.
Attica did have a chance as Rollings tossed a 32-yard pass to Dupuis and then had a 10-yard run.
But an offensive interference call set up a fourth-and-very long, which was incomplete ending the game.
Bochicchio followed up his 27-of-34 for 182 yards performance in a loss to Pembroke with an 8-of-11, 66-yard day against Attica (1-1).
The Fighting Irish are now 1-1.