Despite scoring 54 points, despite more than 350 yards and three touchdowns from sophomore running back Ethan Arneson, despite four quarterback sneaks from the 1-yard-line for touchdowns by Christian Petruzzello, Linganore had to sweat it out all the way down to the final play on its home field.
After trading haymakers in a heavyweight battle that will be long remembered by those who participated in or witnessed it, Oakdale coach Kurt Stein chose to forgo the game-tying extra point in overtime.
The war of attrition was overtaking the Bears, as their man-of-the-moment and star receiver, senior Cameron Dorner, was struggling to finish the game with cramps.
But, on the 2-point conversion try, Joe Pippin’s pass fell a step or two short of sophomore receiver Hunter Thompson in the end zone, and Linganore survived for a 54-53 victory in a game it led by 21 points with 7 minutes, 15 seconds to play.
“One for the ages,” Lancers coach Rick Conner said with a hint of relief in his voice. “I haven’t been a part of anything like that for a long time.”
Conner offered high praise for the job Arneson (353 yards on 43 carries) and the offensive line did in leading the Lancers (4-0) out of an early 13-point hole. He admired his team’s resilience and ability to make the plays it needed to make.
But Conner also lamented the big plays his defense gave up and said there was a lot of room for improvement.
Oakdale (2-2) scored six touchdowns on plays of at least 40 yards, including one on its first play of scrimmage when senior Andrew Hodges burst over the right side and down the sideline on a 40-yard scoring run.
After falling into a 47-26 hole midway through the fourth quarter after Arneson burst up the middle, almost untouched, for his third touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run, Dorner and Pippin put the team on their collective backs and nearly carried the Bears to a dramatic win.
First, Dorner leapt over a defender to snag a 44-yard pass down to the Linganore 1-yard line. He initially thought he had broken the plain of the goal-line and had scored.
Nonetheless, sophomore Evan Austin scored on the very next play. That gave the Bears some life. They trailed 47-33 with 6:15 to play. Late in the third quarter, Austin grabbed a deep pass over the middle from Pippin and sprinted the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown.
Following a defensive stand, Pippin dropped back and launched another deep one for Dorner, who leaped over the defender to pull in a 70-yard touchdown pass. That cut Oakdale’s deficit to 47-40 with 3:27 to play.
It’s not that Dorner wasn’t well defended on some of these plays. It’s just that the same skills that serve him well on Oakdale’s basketball team were allowing him to make these spectacular catches.
After Linganore went three-and-out, Oakdale took over at midfield, trailing by seven, with 2:19 to play. Pippin misfired on a pass over the middle on first down before connecting with Dorner on the next three plays. The final play in the sequence was a 27-yard touchdown pass that involved Dorner soaring over the defense again to make the game-tying grab with 1:28 remaining.
“He left it all out there,” Stein said of Dorner, who finished with eight catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns. “He did everything he humanly could do to make sure we had a shot, and we did. We got it to overtime.”
In the extra period, Arneson had a 9-yard run down to the 1-yard line on Linganore’s first offensive snap. That set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Petruzzello to put the Lancers in front 54-47.
Oakdale then took over on the 10-yard line. Hodges was dropped for a 2-yard loss on first down before Pippin looked right on second down and fired one into the end zone for Dorner to pull the Bears within a point.
On the decision to go for the 2-point try, Stein said, “I just feel like in those situations, when you get the second shot, it’s usually the thing to do, especially when you are having a tough time defensively. We made the decision beforehand that if we got to go on defense first, and we got in the situation, that we’d go for the win, and that’s what we did.”