Somehow, you just knew a mistake would decide Friday night’s Ohio Heritage Conference game between Catholic Central and the host Northeastern Jets at Conover Field.
There had already been seven interceptions, five thrown by Northeastern. But the eighth pickoff made the difference. With the Irish driving for a possible winning touchdown at midfield, Northeastern senior Aaron Phillips picked off quarterback Colin Kelly and returned it 51 yards for the game-winning score with 47 seconds left for a 21-14 Jets victory.
A fourth Jets interception by Casey Hayes with two seconds left and the Irish driving on Northeastern’s 44 iced the game.
The loss was Central’s first against four wins. The Jets improved to 2-3. Both teams are 1-1 in the OHC.
After a scoreless first half, both teams put a touchdown on the scoreboard in the first 4 ½ minutes of the second half.
First the Jets got the ball on their own 32-yard line. But a 17-yard quarterback keeper by Bo Davis and a 49-yard TD pass from Davis to Wes Rogers broke the scoring ice. Rylie McCorkle, a female soccer player for the Jets, kicked the extra point to put the Jets up 7-0.
But just four plays later, the Irish answered. Dominic DeWitt returned the ensuing kickoff to set the Irish up at the Northeastern 21. A 9-yard pass to DeWitt set up an 8-yard TD pass to Thomas Kavanaugh, tying the score at 7-7.
Northeastern went up 14-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by A.C. Leffel. McCorkle’s kick was good, after a Jets illegal procedure penalty pushed them back five yards. The key play in the drive was a 58-yard pass from Davis to Phillips, taking the ball down to the Central 11.
But Central countered that score with 8:19 left in the game as Kelly turned a broken play into an 8-yard touchdown run. Will Clark’s kick tied it at 14-14.
A Gunner Weaver interception, the fourth of the night for the Irish, gave the ball back with seven minutes to go. But after one Irish first down and a key Jets sack, their sixth of the game, Northeastern regained possession.
A fifth Central interception by Butler left the Irish at their own 3. But they could not sustain their drive, setting the stage for the late-game heroics.
Northeastern had 219 yards of total offense, 76 on the ground and 143 passing. Phillips caught four passes for 88 yards. The Irish had 161 yards of total offense, 112 through the air.
Northeastern came the closest to scoring in the first half. That came in their first drive, set up by an interception by Zach Currier at the Central 39.
Davis hit Aaron Taylor with a 21-yard pass to the Central 15. But the drive stalled and McCorkle just missed a 25-yard field goal.
Northeastern got the ball to the Central 15 after a 23-yard quarterback keeper by Davis. But the drive stalled as a sack put the Jets out of field goal range.
Northeastern had 55 first-half yards and three first downs. The Irish had 50 and five first downs.