The top-ranked Jaguars had one last chance to find the end zone for a potential game-tying score in the final seconds of Saturday’s Division II football quarterfinal against Bow.
But Cody Potter’s Hail Mary was batted harmlessly away against the defense of Mark Borak, Matt Harkins and Steven Guerrette, sounding the final buzzer on the eighth-seeded Falcons’ 20-15 upset victory over Windham (8-1).
“Absolutely exemplary,” said Bow Coach Paul Cohen regarding his squad’s effort. “Everyone did what they needed to do to reach that semifinal game. I’m very proud of them.”
The win lands the Falcons a berth in the semifinals for a fifth straight year, where they will play at No. 5 Hanover (9-0) on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m.
The Falcons (7-2) were caught with too many players on the field in the game’s waning moments Saturday, setting up a do-or-die Hail Mary attempt just beyond midfield with two seconds remaining. Luckily for Bow, however, the penalty didn’t prove costly thanks to the defense of Borak, Harkins and Guerrette.
Bow had taken the lead less than two minutes earlier on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Harkins to Borak, but the ensuing two-point conversion try was stuffed by the Jaguars, giving the home team one more shot at tying things up.
“The fact that overall the defense bent here and there but didn’t break was huge, especially in a playoff game,” said Cohen, whose team fell to Plymouth in last year’s title game in its inaugural season in D-II. “We’re the first team to hold Windham to less than (25) points. ... We’re the No. 8 seed and we were able to hold them. That says something right there.”
The team’s battled to a scoreless draw through the game’s first 12 minutes, but it was the Falcons who broke the ice with the game’s first score before halftime on a 75-yard touchdown run by Jack Corriveau. Matt Nicholls converted the PAT to make it 7-0.
Windham knotted the score 7-all early in the second half on a two-yard touchdown run and extra point, but Cohen’s team was quick to respond, answering less than 5 minutes later with a touchdown of its own. This time is was Ben Kimball who found paydirt for the Falcons, connecting on a 20-yard pass from Harkins for the score to go up 14-7 after the PAT.
“Harkins’s touchdown throws were key,” Cohen said. “We were a little more balanced when we needed to be. I said to Matt after the game ‘you played exactly the way I needed you to play.’ He showed leadership. He played with a lot of poise, a lot of energy.”
Cohen added, “our running attack was not quite as effective as it had been, but we’ve evolved as a program. People might say, ‘oh Bow, they like to run the ball a lot,’ and that’s true, because we have the running backs to do so, but we showed today we’re able to move the ball down field in the air and score in the air.”
The Jaguars refused to go down quietly, though, and took their first and only lead of the game late in the third quarter when a 10-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion made it 15-14. But Cohen’s team wasn’t fazed by the deficit, clawing their way to a season-extending victory and a date with another unbeaten in Hanover.
The Falcons won’t be daunted by this challenge. Last season as the No. 7 seed, Bow defeated fourth-seeded Hanover on the Marauders home turf, 38-24, to reach the final.
“We’re a bit of a neophyte in that regard,” Cohen said. “Hanover has a potent running game. A potent passing game. A stingy defense. To go against them, we’re going to have to fine-tune some things, just like we have every week this season.”