South Western's rally falls short
The Mustangs allowed 287 rushing yards by the Black Knights
For one brief moment, it seemed like South Western was about to pull off a miraculous comeback.
Down by two points to Hempfield with a little less than a minute remaining in a first-round District 3 Class AAAA playoff game, Mustangs quarterback Brock Geiman chucked a 40-yard pass toward the end zone for receiver Jeff Green. But as Green reached for the ball, he was knocked to the ground by a Hempfield defender.
Despite protests from the South Western sideline, pass interference was not called. A few plays later, Geiman was intercepted by Jimmy Dizon, ending the Mustangs season with a 23-21 loss.
"I thought it was a touchdown, then I thought it was pass interference," South Western head coach Damian Poalucci said. "But that's not the reason why we lost. And (that call) is not the reason why we lost."
As heartbreaking as the loss was, it took a huge effort by the Mustangs in the final minutes just to put themselves in a position to win. Following a 33-yard touchdown run by Black Knights quarterback Sam Kramer with 4:03 left to play, the Mustangs trailed 23-14, and their chances seemed slim.
But Geiman kept the team in the game, quickly leading South Western down the field with a series of passes and scrambles before hitting Green with a 21-yard scoring strike with 2:40 remaining.
"I didn't really think about it much," Geiman said. "That may sound cliche, but I just went off instinct and played. The people I was with are amazing players and were in the right spot."
Still, all the Black Knights had to do was run out the clock, something that seemed easy considering they racked up 287 rushing yards during the game. With the game on the line, though, South Western forced a three-and-out to give its offense one more chance.
Although his team came up short, Poalucci praised his players for not giving up when down by two scores in the final five minutes.
"I think we played our best game all season tonight," Poalucci said. "Big-time games require players to be big-time kids. Brock did it, Noah (Staub) did it, Jeff Green did it. All the guys we count on stepped up tonight. We played good, hard football, and you can't ask for more from high school kids."
At the end of the day, the Mustangs were unable to overcome the fact that they had no answer for the Hempfield running game. Only four players touched the ball on offense for the Black Knights, but with Will Blair providing 172 yards on 28 carries and Kramer chipping in with 98 rushing yards, it didn't matter.
One of the night's key moments took place during Hempfield's final touchdown drive, with the Knights facing a third-and-13 just behind midfield. Despite the down and distance, Kramer pitched it to Blair, who took it 14 yards for the first down. Kramer scored a few minutes later to give Hempfield a nine-point lead.
"Getting the chance to take some clock off is a pretty big deal when you're only up three points," Hempfield head coach Ron Zeiber said. "Certainly the ability to move the ball, move the chains was big."
Hemp -- Chris Kosmela, 38 kick, 4:24
Hemp -- Will Blair, 43 run (Kosmela kick) 0:00
SW -- Brock Geiman, 1 run (Wes Sneeringer kick) 2:36
Hemp -- Sam Kramer, 7 run (Kosmela kick) 8:19
SW -- Tyler Fulmore, 2 run (Sneeringer kick) 9:21
Hemp -- Kramer, 33 run (Kick failed) 4:03
SW -- Geiman, 21 pass to Jeff Green (Sneeringer kick good) 2:40
Rushing — SW, Robby Harbison 7-25, Geiman 11-36, DeLunche Shaw 3-8, Zack Hughes 3-5, Nigel Willians 4-14, Miles Francis 4-12, Tyler Fulmore 3-14, Jeff Green 3-12. Hemp, Blair 28-172, Sam Kramer 17-98, Andrew Green 4-17.
Passing — SW, Geiman 10-18-1-170. Hemp, Kramer 2-7-1-40.
Receiving — SW, Noah Staub 4-77, Corbin Byers 1-28, Jeff Green 4-53, Fulmore 1-12. Hemp, Riley Canouse 1-38, Andrew Green 1-2.