ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The St. Clairsville Red Devils' Division IV, Region 15 quarterfinal transpired just the way coach Brett McLean had envisioned.
Well, maybe not.
But, the Red Devils mentor will sure take it.
St. Clairsville sophomore placekicker Zach Musilli, who came out for football just because his friend and now long snapper Abbey Maroon encouraged him to giving kicking a try, was perfect on a 34-yard field goal as the clock turned to triple zeros, giving the Red Devils a cherished 30-27 victory against a valiant Chesapeake squad before a large turnout at chilly Red Devil Stadium Saturday night.
"How about that kid?," McLean said. "He walked in the morning of August 1 and said, 'I want to kick, coach.' He's done nothing work hard, and he's such a quiet kid you hardly know he's at practice other than the thuds you hear down behind the field goal post because he's constantly practicing."
The Red Devils (10-1) will now tangle with Coshocton, which dispatched Martins Ferry, 34-13, at Purple Rider Stadium. The site for the regional semifinal game will be formally announced by the OHSAA this afternoon. Projections for the site include Zanesville or Steubenville.
What turned out to be a dream come true game in which his teammates presented him the game ball, almost never came to fruition as Musilli missed a PAT, which would have put St. C. on top, 28-27.
However, he, nor the Red Devils coaching staff, lost any confidence.
"It's a tough thing to go back out there after missing (an extra point)," McLean said. "When he missed, I brought him over and told him to keep his head up because it may be an overtime game or we could get another shot in regulation, and he didn't have his head down and was just ready to do it."
After tying the game at 27 on a 13-yard scamper by sophomore Michael Ferns, who put forth a brilliant game in all three facets, the Panthers had another chance with less than two minutes to go.
The Red Devils, who had all three timeouts in their hip pocket, forced their second turnover of the game when senior Anthony Kuhn pounced on a fumble on the 'Peake' 47.
The Red Devils, who have the ability to strike in a hurry, converted a key fourth down when junior quarterback Matt Kinnick found Ferns in the middle of the field for 33 yards to the 14 yard line with 8 seconds to go.
Kinnick proceeded to take the next snap, run directly to the center of the field and took a knee on the 17 yard line, setting up Musilli.
"It all happened so fast, that I don't know how I did it," Musilli said. "I really don't believe this is happening right now. I thought it was over when I missed the extra point, but I knew (the coaches) would come back to me if we got in position."
After Chesapeake iced Musilli, Maroon's snap and Kinnick's hold were perfect and Musilli launched the kick well over the crossbar, setting off a wild celebration.
"I feel like we escaped," McLean said. "We watched Peake films and it felt like the games lasted 15 minutes because the drives were so long and so much time was being run off. We told the kids we'd bend some, but we had to make the most of our chances on offense."
St. Clairsville knotted the game at 21 when Kinnick found junior playmaker Jerrid Marhefka in a 51-yard pitch and catch. It was Marhefka's second score of the game.
However, taking more than eight minutes off the clock, the Panthers marched right back down the field, eating up 77 yards on 17 plays before Patrick Hintz plunged in from 2 yards out. A controversial call came in the drive when an illegal motion call was signaled, but then waived off after Chesapeake's coaches, and players, pled their case.
"According to the explanation I got from the official, it looked like they had a man in motion, but he didn't turn up the field," McLean said. "He was in lateral motion, but not forward motion. They threw the flag because they'd never seen a guy, in that position, go in motion before. The official assumed it was procedure, but the referee guaranteed me it wasn't a penalty. That was a huge play."
The play was a fourth-down gain of 9 yards on a fake punt, which eventually led to the touchdown.
St. Clairsville was able to answer because it's quick striking, pass-happy offense.
"I was proud of the character we showed," McLean said. "We always seemed to have an answer. We didn't hide or go into a shell. We never quit and that's a great thing and tells you how much they believe in what they're doing."
The Red Devils had no answer for the Chesapeake running game, which accumulated 358 yards on more than 60 rushes. Panthers' quarterback Austin McMaster had 116 yards to complement Hintz' 121-yard performance.
"We told the kids all week that playoff games aren't usually 50-point spreads, so we had to be ready to strap it up for 48 minutes," McLean said.
After a scoreless first quarter, Peake got on the board with the first two touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.
McMasters capped a 15-play march, which chewed up 8:15 off the game clock and included nary a pass, when he plunged into the end zone around the right end from 5 yards away. The PAT was blocked.
St. Clairsville quickly went three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Panthers with 5:17 to go before halftime.
The Panthers made the Red Devils pay once again, working exclusively on the ground. This time, the Panthers needed 11 plays before senior Patrick Hintz found a crease up the middle and darted for paydirt from 11 yards out. Nate Jones ran into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
However, momentum took a turn in the Red Devils' favor on the ensuing kickoff. Working with a squib-kick mentality, talented Ferns scooped up the kick and rumbled 56 yards to the Panthers' 7 yard line.
From there, Kinnick found Marhefka all alone in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Musilli was perfect on the PAT, slicing the deficit in half at the half.
In the first half, Chesapeake ran 37 plays and didn't throw the ball once. It churned out 226 yards and accumulated 14 first downs. McMaster led the way with 84 stripes on seven totes in the opening two quarters.
St. C., meanwhile, snapped the ball 18 times and had 44 yards of offense.