Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win
HALFWAY THROUGH the fourth quarter, Evansville Harrison enjoyed a 12-7 lead over Castle. The plug was about to be pulled on the ’81 team’s playoff chances.
The Knights weren’t done yet, however, as they found themselves with a fourth-and-goal on the Warriors one-yard line with a minute left.
But when fullback Paul Quinzer was stopped short and Harrison took over, many of the Castle faithful began streaming from the stadium. The doom and gloom that had followed the earlier Mater Dei loss was about to give way to a tsunami of grief and anger.
The Warriors would run three straight conservative plays and then take a safety rather than attempting a punt, trimming their lead to 12-9 and forcing them to free kick to Castle. The Knights would get another chance.
Two incomplete passes, however, left the Knights running out of time and options when quarterback Jay Burch heaved a desperation pass toward receiver Chris Czerkawski, who went up between two defenders and hauled down the ball for a 53-yard reception giving the Knights a first down at the Harrison 14-yard line with 10 seconds left.
The stadium erupted. The impossible now seemed possible.
Junior kicker Matt McDowell confidently strolled onto the field only to have Harrison call a last-second timeout to “freeze” him. McDowell was undeterred, strolling to midfield and waving the crowd into a frenzy. Then he nailed the field goal to send the game into overtime.
After both teams failed to score in the first overtime, Harrison quarterback Scott Marsch hit receiver Dale Crossfield with for an eight-yard touchdown. The failed extra point left the Warriors with a 18-12 lead.
WITH ITS PLAYOFF hopes in the balance, the Castle coaches sent in the team’s bread-and-butter play, the Reverse 47 pass. The Knights faked a reverse while Dave Brosmer slipped out of the backfield, and Burch found him in the right flat for the touchdown.
McDowell would get plenty of encouragement from the emotionally spent crowd of 5,000 at Enlow Stadium as he strolled back on the field and hit the extra point for an unbelievable 19-18 come-from-behind victory that eliminated the Warriors from playoff contention.
Joy had returned to Castledom as Mohawk-haircut adorned senior nose guard Jeff “Dogman” Sellers came sliding off the field on his knees in celebration.
Castle’s playoff chances may have been on life support, but they were still breathing.