Wildcats Drop Overtime Thriller Vs. Liberty


Aidan P

Ben Straub filled admirably at RB for the injured LJ Minner

A fourth-quarter comeback, a last-second Hail Mary, and a heartbreak all combined to make up the most exciting game in Westminster football history, all while under the lights at Liberty High School.

The game featured impressive performances and a showcase of character that would make any member of the Westminster community proud. The team came together and did all they could in front of their parents and classmates to bring home a win, but some things just are not meant to be.

Let’s start at the very beginning. The Wildcats started off slow on the offensive side of the ball, coming up empty on each of their first four possessions. Two of these drives carried good momentum, but due to penalties, they did not result in any points. While the offense was struggling, the defense played a solid first half, allowing two touchdowns and scoring the only points for the Wildcats. A pitch from the quarterback was too high and bounced into the end zone where a Liberty player laid on it and took a safety, but the offense could not capitalize and the Cats trailed 14-2 heading into halftime.

The second half started with Liberty on offense, but the Cats gained possession quickly on a fumble recovery by Aiden Davitt on the 50-yard line. The turnover was quickly converted to six points on a connection from Lane Davis to Ben Hicks in the corner of the end zone. After a blocked extra-point attempt, the score was 14-8.
The Eagles quickly responded with a touchdown on the ensuing drive but missed the PAT to make it 20-8. The Wildcats were shut down early on the next drive, but a muffed punt recovered on the 8-yard line gave the Wildcats the ball. A pass from Davis to Chereji made the score 20-15 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter was one that will not be forgotten. After stalling on their first two drives of the quarter, the Wildcats drove down the field and faced a 4th and goal from the 7-yard line. Lane Davis made a spectacular play, rolling out to his right and finding receiver Tommy Briner in the end zone to make the score 21-20, but a failed 2-point conversion attempt kept the lead to just one point.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles returned the ball for a touchdown, but a penalty marker brought the ball back to the Liberty side of the field. On the very next play, the same player took the ball 73 yards down the field to the ten-yard line. Two plays later, the Eagles scored and got the two points to go up by seven with just 42 seconds left on the clock.

Starting deep in their own territory, the Wildcats completed two passes to Briner and Straub to set up the ball on the just past midfield with 15 seconds remaining. An incomplete deep ball to Straub left the clock with six seconds remaining. A timeout was taken by the Wildcats and tension was felt by all in the stadium. On the snap, all receivers went deep, a Liberty defender rushed past the line forcing Lane Davis to roll to the right and threw up a prayer to the end zone. Yet again it was Tommy Briner\; he came down with the ball in the end zone as time expired. Briner was quickly toppled by many teammates, all while the student section went wild. Sonic slushies were spilled, phones were dropped, and shoes were lost on the bleachers, but no one cared as the Cats just did the unthinkable. The referee had no sense of the moment and gave the Wildcats a flag for excessive celebration. But this was no problem for Pierce Dunne, as he hit the clutch extra point from deep to make the score 28-28 and send the game to overtime.

Overtime didn’t go the way the Wildcats hoped. It started with Liberty winning the coin flip and deciding to give Westminster the ball first. A few plays into the first set of downs, a bobbled snap gave Liberty the ball. Any Liberty score would win them the game\; the Wildcats needed to force a turnover. On third down, the Liberty quarterback took the snap and ran to his right on an option play, he faked a pitch and kept the ball, sneaking down the sideline and entering the end zone. The game was over with a score of 34-28. Heartbreak.

The emotion was seen in the eyes of all players leaving the field. The passion was clear and the craving to succeed was felt. But games like these are none to hang your head on. The Wildcats battled down to the very last play, never giving up no matter the adversity.

Many players stepped up and had massive games: Lane Davis lead the offense, Hicks and Briner had big touchdowns catches. Davidson was a monster on both sides of the ball, Straub was impactful on every play, and Arthur Jordan gave a gritty performance running in the place of LJ Minner.

This feeling will propel the Wildcats into the middle part of the season with a fire that is to be feared by all upcoming opponents. The Wildcats will be hungrier than ever to earn a spot in the win column next week in the home opener against John Burroughs.