WILMINGTON – In a game surprisingly full of big plays, it was the final 3 yards that proved to be the difference between the Newman Comets and the Wilmington Wildcats in their Class 3A quarterfinal contest Saturday at Becker Field.
Needing a 2-point conversion to tie the score with 1:20 to play, Wilmington running back Chris Tworek was swarmed under by the Newman defense a half-yard short of the goal line, preserving the Comets’ 28-26 lead.
Newman senior Ryan Schaab then recovered the onside kick to secure the victory, sending the Comets on to next weekend’s 3A semifinals. They will play a home game against Aurora Christian, a 49-14 winner over Winnebago.
“Wheeeeew,” Newman coach Mike Pappoccia said. “When we don’t play as a team, we’re not very good, but we played as a team on that extra point, and that turned out to win us the game.”
It didn’t seem that late stop would be necessary. The Comets (12-0) led 28-14 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter after Nick Rude’s 10-yard TD run, set up by a 53-yard pass from A.J. Sharp to Maison Bittner – Sharp’s lone completion of the game – two plays earlier. It was Bittner’s 19th birthday.
But Wilmington (9-3) battled back. Nick Anderson recovered a punt blocked by Mike Wolfe in the end zone with 10:50 to play, but the extra point kick was wide right, leaving Newman with a 28-20 lead.
The Wildcats forced a punt, then took 5:50 to drive down and get within 28-26 on a 7-yard run by Tworek. But after back-to-back Wilmington timeouts – the Wildcats’ final two TOs – the Comets held on the conversion to hold on for the win.
“We knew where the ball was going; we just followed the big lineman when he went into their backfield,” Newman lineman Danny Trygstad said.
• In other area playoff games, Annawan/Wethersfield was knocked out in Class 2A by Clifton Central 48-27.
Stark County advanced in 1A with a convincing 50-20 win over Forreston. The Rebels (10-2) will travel to top-seeded Stockton (12-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday
Ottawa saw its undefeated season end with a 42-6 loss at the hands of No. 1 seed Crete Monee in 6A.
Area playoff scoreboard Class 1A: (7) Forreston (9-2) at (6) Stark County (9-2 Class 2A: (1) Aledo Mercer County 33, (4) Amboy/LaMoille 21 (1) Clifton Central 48, (3) Annawan/Wethersfield 27 Class 3A: (2) Sterling Newman 28, (11) Wilmington 26 Class 6A: (1) Crete Mone 42, (2) Ottawa 6
Semifinal pairings Class 3A: (4) Aurora Christian (11-1) at (2) Sterling Newman (12-0), 2 p.m., Saturday