FRANKLIN FURNACE —Perhaps truth be told, the Bobcats liked their new digs so much, they apparently decided to spend some Saturday night extra time there.
However, they didn’t want to spend too much in overtime already, so they scored —then made the defensive stop —to send Bobcat Nation home happy, and cap one of the most memorable nights in Green High School history.
As they christened their new state-of-the art brand-spanking new football stadium, the Bobcats didn’t allow visiting Fairfield Christian Academy to spoil the stadium-opening and season-opening party —as Green got an overtime touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion run, then denied Danny Blair an opportunity for the tie as the Bobcats prevailed 15-13.
That’s right, as Saturday night in Franklin Furnace featured emotion, entertainment, celebration, nostalgia, both good and poor play on the football field, and ultimately —most importantly for Green —a victory.
Chad Coffman’s first two seasons as the Green head coach have been unfortunately impacted by the Bobcats battling low numbers, nagging injuries, and even a coronavirus situation twice last year.
But the third time might be Coffman’s charm, and a new beginning in Bobcat Country.
“To be in this atmosphere, the opening of the new stadium, so many past players and people coming back this weekend, it was really emotional. Then to go into overtime, and it comes down to one play, it only adds to that emotion piece. The relief of success…the kids wanted this one bad,” said Coffman. “When you work and it can come together and you can do it, it is emotional, but it’s great.”
Both clubs scored on big plays only four-and-a-half minutes apart in the second quarter, making it 7-7 with both extra points being successful.
The defensive struggle between the two small schools carried over until the end of regulation, as the game went to overtime and Green getting the ball first.
Five plays into the possession, including a Landan Lodwick 15-yard run to set up 1st-down-and-goal at the Knights’ 10, Abe McBee —battling injury and overcoming an exit to re-enter at quarterback —dove in from two yards out to make it 13-7, as the Bobcats basically backpushed Nathaniel Brannigan into the end zone for the two-point conversion run.
The Knights then immediately answered on their first snap in overtime, as Blair bolted 20 yards to paydirt —and to within 15-13 on the scoreboard.
But the Bobcats, boxed up against the Knights’ running formation for the two-point conversion and the tie, stuffed Blair amid a wall of bodies before he crossed the goal line —as Green got the epic win with that superb stop.
Without hesitation, the Bobcats stormed the field —setting off a wild celebration scene.
Coffman discussed the overtime period —for both sides of the ball.
McBee came back and then ran the ball following back-to-back Brannigan runs, then Coffman called timeout to set up his two-point denying defense — after Blair scored the touchdown.
“It got to the point there with Abe (McBee) out, that maybe overtime is what we want. We thought we could out-physical them and our defense could get the stop. They won the toss, so they picked playing defense first, but we got four good runs in a row to score and the two points. When they got their touchdown, we were head-hanging a little bit. So we called a timeout and really talked about understanding that this (two-point conversion attempt) is one play that goes down in history and winning this game,” said the coach. “We came in there, got him (Blair) stopped and won the game.”
A game in which certainly the defenses dominated, as both teams punted six times, fumbled four times and lost at least two including three by the Knights—and each backup quarterback that replaced a briefly-injured starter threw an interception.
With 2:39 remaining, Parker Couch —replacing Gabe Welsh for FCA —was picked off by Green’s Levi Waddell at the Bobcat 23-yard-line, before five plays later Ben Hopple had an interception of Green freshman Jon Knapp.
That set up the overtime, as McBee re-entered and finished the game —having rushed eight times for 20 yards and completing three passes for 20 more, including two in the first half to Brannigan for 15.
Brannigan was the primary workhorse for the Bobcats, carrying 23 times for 110 yards —with Lodwick (nine carries for 32 yards) and Trevor Sparks (seven carries for 51 yards) shouldering some load as well.
Green’s ground-oriented attack churned out 208 yards, but besides the three turnovers and half-a-dozen punts, twice the Bobcats drove double-digits in plays — before those drives ended in turnovers on downs.
The first was a 14-play, almost eight-and-a-half minute first-quarter march from their own 6-yard-line to the red zone, before a 10-play third-period series stalled out —as the Bobcats trekked from their own 28 to the red zone once again.
“As a coach, you always have that vision that you start out crisp. We were off-kilter at times, but we started hitting and played and I thought we made some good football plays. The consistency piece, we were much better defensively other than their one touchdown run. We were more consistent moving the ball, but we couldn’t finish drives,” said Coffman. “Our offense, whatever it was, wasn’t as consistent as we wanted it to be.”
That said, the Bobcats relied on their defense — and a high snap over Welsh’s head which resulted in a 20-yard loss —for their first touchdown.
McBee recovered the ball in the end zone following the Knights’ high snap mishap, and Quincy Merrill made it 7-0 with his extra-point kick — only four minutes and eight seconds gone by in the second stanza.
“I thought our defense, although we weren’t perfect, made an incredible amount of negative plays,” said Coffman. “We kept them behind the sticks, really rallied to the football and gang-tackled. Our defense was actually better than what we’ve been practicing. Guys gutted it out, found ways to make plays.”
The Knights netted 141 total yards including 107 rushing on 30 attempts, as Blair’s dozen carries for 75 yards led the way, while Welsh was 3-of-8 passing for 34 yards —including a 35-yarder to Sam Rauch.
Speaking of whom, the one play the Bobcats didn’t make was Rauch’s 65-yard touchdown jaunt —as Rusty Hutchinson hit the extra point for the 7-7 tie at the three-and-a-half minute second-quarter juncture, which carried all the way to the overtime.
Blair then had the Knights’ third-longest pickup with his 20-yard run in the extra period, but thanks to Green’s gang-tackling of Blair on the two-point conversion try, it was all for naught.
Instead, this most memorable night indeed belonged to the young and up-and-coming Bobcats —breaking in their new digs.
“Really exciting to open this place up like this. We will go down and be remembered forever for this win, we have worked so hard for this and this community has waited a long time for a facility like this,” raved Coffman. “Nothing better than getting a win for these guys and this Green community. This is one I’ll never forget.”
The Bobcats return home, and return to non-league action, on Friday night against Fisher Catholic.
* * *
FCA 0 7 0 0 6 —13
Green 0 7 0 0 8 —15
G — Abe McBee, fumble recovery in end zone (Quincy Merrill kick), 7:52, 2nd (7-0 G)
FCA — Sam Rauch, 65-yard run (Rusty Hutchinson kick), 3:28, 2nd (7- 7 tie)
G — Abe McBee, 2-yard run (Nathaniel Brannigan run), OT (15-7 G)
FCA — Danny Blair, 20-yard run (run failed), OT (15-13 G)
First downs 6 10
Scrimmage plays 39 59
Rushes-yards 30-107 51-208
Passing yards 34 20
Total yards 141 228
Cmp-Att-Int. 3-9-1 3-8-1
Fumbles-lost 4-3 4-2
Penalties-yards 5-27 3-25 )
Punts-Ave. 6-31.3 6-29.7
RUSHING —FCA: Danny Blair 12-75 TD, Sam Rauch 2-61 TD, Randy Hutchinson 3-9, Gabe Welsh 9-(-15), Parker Couch 1-2, Brayden Stem 1-(-2), Team 2-(-23); Green: Nathaniel Brannigan 23-110, Landan Lodwick 9-32, Abe McBee 8-20 TD, Trevor Sparks 7-51, Blake Smith 1-1, Jon Knapp 1-(-6), Team 2-0
PASSING — FCA: Gabe Welsh 3-8-0-34, Parker Couch 0-1-1-0; Green: Abe McBee 3-7-0-20, Jon Knapp 0-1-1-0
RECEIVING —FCA: Sam Rauch 1-35, Nate Hampton 1-4, Danny Blair 1-(-5); Green: Nathaniel Brannigan 2-15, Blake Smith 1-5
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved