Tomcats bask in light of quadruple overtime win
GREENVILLE, Pa. – The motto for the first on-campus night game in the 109-year history of Thiel College football was "Light it up". The Westminster Titans and Thiel Tomcats made sure the game lived up to its billing, lighting up the scoreboard for 82 points and the stat sheet for 878 total yards.
Before the lights went out, through a fourth-quarter comeback and four-back-and-forth overtimes, it was the Tomcats who shined brightest Saturday night, defeating the Titans 45-37 at Alumni Stadium.
"What a game for the first night game at Thiel College," said Kurt Reiser, head coach of the Tomcats. "I thought it was an evenly matched game coming in … our kids just never gave up, never quit, and I think that's a testament to their character."
It took character just for the Tomcats to force overtime. Trailing by seven points with a little more than one minute remaining in regulation, Thiel faced a do-or-die fourth-and-10 play from its own 23-yard line. With the game hanging in the balance, quarterback Andrew Smith (Williamsfield, Ohio/Pymatuning Valley) threw a 77-yard touchdown to Tim Walker (Beachwood, Ohio/Warrensville Heights), who was wide open down the far sideline. Jon Fennick (New Castle, Pa./Neshannock ) tacked on the point after, and the Tomcats and Titans headed to overtime.
Dak Britt gave the Titans a 28-21 lead when he scored on a 1-yard run in the first overtime session. The Tomcats came back to tie the contest up on their first overtime possession when Smith threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Berend Grube (Venetia, Pa./Peters Twp.).
The two teams exchanged field goals in the second overtime. Fennick hit the first of the field goals, making a career-long boot of 39 yards from the left hash. Justin Dahl then forced a third overtime when he made a 24-yarder.
Britt scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the contest in the third overtime, this one coming from nine yards out, to give his team the lead. However, Thiel countered with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Matt Fedzen (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) to necessitate a fourth overtime.
Thiel running back Josh Potter (Chipley, Fla./Chipley) scored what would count as the game-winning touchdown in the fourth extra period when he caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Smith. The Tomcats also converted the mandated 2-point conversion when Smith connected with Fedzen.
The game came to an end when the Titans failed to score on their fourth possession. Thiel defensive back Chris Jones came up with the key play of the drive when he broke up Britt's pass along the far sideline during a fourth-and-11 situation from the 26-yard line.
Britt was Westminster's top threat, rushing for 245 yards on 38 carries. He also completed 18-of-41 passes for 169 yards. In all, Britt ran for four touchdowns and threw one touchdown pass.
Quarterback Ryan Radke (Lancaster, N.Y./Lancaster Central) led the Tomcats on the ground with 56 yards and one touchdown run on six totes. Smith, who entered the game in the fourth quarter, completed 12 passes, four of which were touchdown lobs, for 189 yards. He also picked up 36 yards on the ground.
Radke opened scoring Saturday when he broke free on a 51-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. Britt forced the first tie of the game late in the first quarter when he scored on a 3-yard run.
Britt also scored Westminster's second touchdown of the game midway through the third quarter on a 20-yard run. The Tomcats responded when Rich Kolesar (Waterford, Pa./Fort LeBoeuf) scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter to force a 14-14 tie.
Britt connected with Collin Wallace on a 10-yard TD pass midway through the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the Tomcats' late game-tying touchdown on a 77-yard catch by Walker.
Walker led Thiel with 95 yards receiving on four grabs while Collin Wallace led Westminster with 93 receiving yards on eight receptions.
Wes Schmidt (Kittanning, Pa./Kittanning) led Thiel's defense with 14 total tackles. He also recorded an interception, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
The Tomcats (3-6, 3-4 PAC) will close out the 2013 season Saturday when they host the Grove City Wolverines in the annual battle for the Mercer County Cup. Kickoff at Alumni Stadium is set for 1 p.m.