SPARTA — Sometimes an entire season can turn on a single game. When history looks back on the 2010 Highland Scots’ season, it may say that the turning point happened during a great defensive stand late in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game against the visiting arch rival Pleasant Spartans.
After the Spartans grabbed a Highland fumble with 4:25 left in the game, to get the ball just 23 yards from scoring. With the game tied at 14, the entire Highland defense stepped up and stopped the Spartans cold at the 5-yard line. On fourth and goal, Pleasant’s Perry Reynolds missed a 23-yard field goal, preserving the tie and giving the Scots the ball at their own 20-yard line with 1:14 to play.
“We really play tough and we practice with that intensity every week,” said Highland linebacker Ryan Santille. “All the credit goes to the defensive linemen. I’m so thankful to have them up front, taking those blocks for me. That was why our defense was so successful tonight. Our defensive line played lights out.”
The Scots’ offense, which had been sputtering along in the second half, came to life. Highland quarterback Josh Gahm (11-for-26, 137 yards) hooked up with Matt Stooksbury (5 catches, 57 yards) for a 10-yard completion and a first down. Two plays later, Stooksbury pulled in back-to-back passes of nine and 13 yards. The latter gave the Scots a first down at the Pleasant 30, after Stooksbury made a great individual effort once he made the catch.
“He’s a great player,” said Carpenter. “He plays tight end and does a great job blocking. Now, he’s really stepping into the role of receiving. He’s just a great athlete.”
“Josh gave me some easy passes to catch,” said Stooksbury. “I just had to catch them or else — overtime.”
Gahm hit Artie McAndrew (four catches, 73 yards) on the next play with a pass that brought many Highland fans to their feet, but was a yard shy of a touchdown. McAndrew’s 29-yard catch looked like the go-ahead score, but the referees spotted the ball at the Pleasant 1-yard line.
“I didn’t know if he scored or not,” said Carpenter, “I was running down the sidelines to see.”
Hayden Mailey (seven rushes, 16 yards) took it in on the next play for the Scots to get back the lead, 21-14 with 12.4 seconds remaining.
“It was a huge momentum swing at the end of the game for us,” said Carpenter. “Our kids made great plays in the first half. In the second half we had a few missed opportunities. I’m just really happy with how we came back in the end and put that nice drive together at the end of the game — it was really great.”
Highland got out in front early and had a 14-0 lead at halftime, scoring on short, first half touchdown runs by running backs Mailey and Clay Chipps (eight rushes, 40 yards).