As Fairfield's Nick Mort crossed the goal line with 36 seconds remaining in the Green Knights YAIAA Division III battle at York Catholic, it was a moment he will remember for a long time.
"That felt pretty awesome. There is not a better feeling than that ... knowing that I didn't disappoint anyone," Mort said of his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.
Because of that run and much more, Fairfield is off to a 3-0 start (2-0 in the division) after its stunning 13-12 win over the Fighting Irish.
"It's tremendously fulfilling," said Knights coach Darwin Seiler. "First, they are great kids. They work hard and are coachable. We say, 'Trust yourself, trust your teammates and trust your program.' These guys do."
But it wasn't just the eventual game-winning play that impressed. It was terrific execution on the solid drive on the heels of watching a lead disappear and near disaster on a kickoff that set things in motion.
Less than two minutes earlier, York Catholic quarterback Hakeem Kinard hit a streaking Qua'shawn Grooms with a perfect pass that ended in a 36-yard touchdown that put the Irish up 12-7.
After York Catholic missed on a two-point conversion, the kickoff bounced off a Fairfield lineman and a mad scramble ensued. The Knights came up with the ball at their own 38-yard line.
On the next play, quarterback Mason Flickinger somehow avoided a sack and hit David Stone for 18 yards putting the ball in Irish territory. Michael Quealy followed with 13 yards on a reverse, then Flickinger hit Chase Senseney giving Fairfield a first down at the 20.
Mort, who totaled 118 of his team's 257 rushing yards, took the next handoff 15 yards, then followed with his winning 5-yard blast up the middle.
"You don't think about the play that just passed. It's always the next play in football," Mort said of how his team responded after Grooms' touchdown. "You can't think about the past, otherwise you are going to dwell on it."
Although York Catholic took possession at its own 44 with 27 seconds to work with, Kinard's pass was intercepted by Quealy, sparking a wild celebration on the Knights' bench and the visiting stands.
"It feels amazing," Mort said. "Right now we are going with the 24-hour rule, where we have 24 hours to celebrate then it's back to the drawing board Sunday morning when we start watching film and thinking about everything going forward."
While disappointed the loss, York Catholic (1-2, 0-2) coach Eric Depew appreciated Fairfield's effort.
"Give them credit. They are the real deal," he said of the Knights. "You can sense they are on a mission. To my coaching comrades, you have to be ready to play Fairfield."
The teams went back and forth through the first quarter and most of the second until Kinard hit Scott Bartkowiak on a slant pass and the fellow junior took it 63 yards for the opening score of the game a little more than two minutes before halftime.
Fairfield responded on its second drive after the break, taking advantage of field position by going 36 yards in nine plays, capped by Mort's 4-yard run. Brandon Hummel's extra point gave the Knights a 7-6 lead.
The Irish countered by driving down the field in eight plays, however Cody Anders' interception ended that threat.
After the game, Seiler pointed to a celebratory locker room.
"It's about those kids in there. Us coaches have been around a long time. It's not about us," he said. "This is exactly what (high school sports) is all about."
email@example.com; 771-2060, @stevenavaroli
Fairfield 0 0 7 6 -- 13
York Catholic 0 6 0 6 -- 12
YC -- Scott Bartkowiak 63 pass from Hakeem Kinard (kick failed), 2:22.
Ff -- Nick Mort 4 run (Brandon Hummel kick), 2:20.
YC -- Qua'Shawn Grooms 36 pass from Kinard (pass failed), 2:20.
Ff -- Mort 5 run (pass failed), :36.
-- F -- YC
First downs -- 19 -- 15
Rushes-yards -- 45-257 -- 30-116
Passing -- 5-12-0 -- 12-24-2
Passing yards -- 53 -- 202
Total yards -- 310 -- 318
Punts -- 4-38.0 -- 4-35.3
Fumbles-lost -- 4-0 -- 1-0
Penalties-yards -- 2-20 -- 4-31
Rushing -- Ff, Mort 20-118, Michael Quealy 6-58, Dalton Carbaugh 9-41, Mason Flickinger 10-40; YC, Kinard 17-89, Grooms 10-21, Jack Burnside 1-9, Douglas Mills 2-(-3).
Passing -- Ff, Flickinger 5-12-0-53; Kinard 12-24-2-202.
Receiving -- Ff, Antijuan Washington 2-19, Chase Senseney 2-16, David Stone 1-18; YC, Grooms 5-74, Miles Elliott 3-39, Bartkowiak 1-63, Greg Bennett 1-17, Mills 1-9, Burnside 1-0.