PADEN CITY - Before sending his team out onto the field in search of its first victory Friday night, Paden City coach Brent Croasmun talked about a former player that was tragically killed earlier this week in an accident, and asked his kids to dedicate the game to Mark Doty.
Croasmun, who talked with a tear in his eye and with Doty's No. 51 written on the inside of his hat with marker, watched his team struggle through the first half, but come to life in the second and take advantage of some big Gilmer County mistakes to record a memorable victory.
Junior Zach Heasley threw for 153 yards and three touchdowns, including a 19-yarder to sophomore Devin Price with 1:01 to play, and Brandon Cross intercepted a pass a short time later to clinch a thrilling, come-from-behind, 18-15 victory against the stunned Titans at Berger Field.
Paden City’s Brandon Cross (3) is tackled by a Gilmer County defender Friday.
"Mark Doty was one of the classiest individuals I have ever met," Croasmun said. "He was a perfect role model and one of my favorite players that I have coached through the years. I talked about him with the kids before the game and we dedicated it to him.
"I am so proud of these kids right now, but I am also heartbroken over this tragedy."
Trailing 15-12 with 4:08 to play, Paden City (1-3) fumbled what appeared to be its last chance away near midfield. However, after Gilmer gained 9 yards on three downs, the Titans were hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to force a punt.
Taking over at their 36, the Wildcats again moved out near midfield and facing a third-and-7 call, got two huge breaks when the visitors were called for pass interference and the sideline was flagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing the call. All of this moved the ball to the 19-yard line.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Heasley found Price down the middle of the field for the touchdown with 1:01 showing. For the third time in the game the try for 2 failed, but the Wildcats had an 18-15 lead.
The celebration really began two plays into the Titans' final drive when Cross picked off a pass near midfield with 28 seconds showing to seal the outcome.
"These kids just never gave up in the second half," Croasmun said with a smile. "And once we started moving the ball through the air we were able to find some areas to complete passes in. We made a lot of mental mistakes in the first half, but made up for them later.
"Our defense came back after that late fumble and kept fighting. And Zach made some real nice throws in the fourth quarter. We put pressure on the quarterback in the first half and got some sacks, but playing 12 or 13 kids we got a little tired. I am just so proud of them for making the plays when we needed them."