In what will go down as one of the greatest playoff games in Section VI history, the Jamestown Red Raiders defeated the Clarence Red Devils 53-52 in a Class AA Quarterfinal matchup in double overtime.
To advance to the second round, the Red Raiders needed to have a few factors go in their favor – resiliency, an accurate kicker and some gutsy play-calling. As luck would have it for Jamestown, all three of those stars aligned perfectly.
“That was an emotional roller coaster of a game,” Coach Tom Langworthy said. “A lot of ups and downs and our kids played their hearts out. For us to win the way that we did, it’s extremely gratifying.
“I think a lot about the seniors we’ve got on our team, especially the ones we’ve had on varsity for three years. I really wanted to win this one badly because they put their hearts and souls into this team for the last three years.”
Wide receiver Andrew Pumford agreed.
“That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Pumford said. “All year long, we’ve shown that we’ve got a lot of fight in us, and we just trust each other. We knew we could stick it out, and we did.”
At first, things weren’t looking up for the Red Raiders. Clarence struck quickly on their third offensive play of the game when Noah Corry hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass to go up by seven.
Jamestown answered back when freshman running back Savon VanSickle punched it in from a yard out to tie the game late in the first quarter and recorded another touchdown from two yards away midway through the second stanza of play. But Clarence regained the lead shortly thereafter with a six-yard run by Zach Norton.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Red Raiders fumbled and Chris Kiener recovered, giving the Red Devils good field position at the 35-yard line. A few minutes later, Jacob Reger took a handoff and ran 20 yards into the end zone to make the score 21-13.
At that point – and at various times throughout the game – the Red Raiders could have easily packed it in and called it a night. Not so, according to Langworthy.
“I think we really showed the will of our players all throughout the night,” Langworthy said. “They just never said die, and they never felt like they were out of it at all. It’s certainly not comfortable to be down a few scores like that, but we found a way to get it done.”
VanSickle would score for a third time to pull his team within two going into the half, and barely a minute into the third quarter would notch his fourth rushing touchdown from 64 yards away to give Jamestown a four-point lead.
“VanSickle’s a really special talent – a talent you don’t see often especially considering that he’s a freshman,” Langworthy said. “He’s a special player and an even better person.”
After Clarence failed to advance the ball beyond the 50-yard line, their ensuing punt was blocked by Jamestown – giving the Red Raiders good field position at the 23-yard line. Pumford and Drew Boggs then connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to increase the Red Raiders’ lead to 11.
Clarence, however, wasn’t willing to go down without a fight. A 44-yard kick return and a 42-yard catch by Norton set up a two-yard run by Jon Stevens to cut the deficit to three, and Norton would later take a handoff 67 yards to paydirt to help the Red Devils regain the lead.
A surprise onside kick resulted in a recover by Clarence’s Dillon Tharp, and the Red Devils took advantage with a 31-yard touchdown run by Reger – increasing the lead to 10, but also steeling the Red Raiders’ resolve.
Francisco Rodriguez cut the lead to three with a two-yard scamper of his own and with just over a minute to play, the Red Raiders drove down the length of the field to get into field goal range. With an expiring clock, Jayden Schultz nailed a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 42 and sending the game to overtime.
“Schultz is a good kid and he just keeps getting better and better every week,” Langworthy said. “He looked a little nervous when he went out there, but I told him he would make the kick, and sure enough, he did.”
In the first period of extra play, Schultz added another 32-yard field goal to give the Red Raiders a 45-42 lead, but Stevens connected on a field goal of his own to tie the game. The second overtime, however, was where things got interesting.
Brendan Cimerman scored on a one-yard run to give Clarence a 52-45 lead but the Red Raiders rose to the occasion yet again. Pumford and Boggs connected again on another touchdown reception to make the score 52-51, but rather than kicking the extra point and settling for a third overtime, Langworthy decided to attempt a two-point conversion – a gutsy call which could win the game, or send them home for the season.
“I said at the beginning of the drive that if we score, we’re going for two and not kicking,” Langworthy said. “The reasons why was because we had allowed some penetration on special teams and I didn’t want to lose the game on a blocked kick.”
Langworthy called for a rollout pass to Pumford – and the senior wideout and Boggs connected once more, sending Jamestown to the second round and sending Clarence home for the season.
“We actually ran that play earlier in the game and it got tipped at the line. Pumford originally lined up to the left, we moved him to the right and it worked just like we practiced it,” Langworthy said. “To win it this way is a bonus, and the way it played out was crazy.”
Pumford knew the play would turn out positive for his team.
“We’ve practiced that play since seven-on-seven drills in the summer,” Pumford said. “I lined up in the slot, cut inside and then broke outside. The pass was right there.”