WINTERSVILLE - In a 48-minute game, things sometimes come down to one play.
Friday night at Kettlewell Stadium, that play happened after more than 47 minutes had ran off the clock.
With the score tied at 21, Martins Ferry forced an Indian Creek turnover on downs, and the Purple Riders took over at their own 30 with 1:27 left in the game. On second-and-five at the 35, quarterback James Edwards lofted a pass to teammate Jack Fitch, who pulled the ball in one handed, broke a tackle, and tightroped the visitors' sideline for a 65-yard touchdown reception with 26 seconds on the clock.
MARTINS FERRY’S Bryce Coleman looks for somewhere to run during Friday’s game at Indian Creek. The Purple Riders posted a 28-21 victory.
"Couldn't happen to a better young man," Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney of Fitch. "He works so hard. His dad's our superintendent. I coached his dad.
"It's really tough being a coach's son because no matter what you do there's going to be someone saying 'the only reason he's in there is because his dad's a coach,' but it couldn't happen to a better kid."
Arjay Burress kicked the extra point, and Robert Vargo recovered a fumble on Indian Creek's next play to secure the Purple Riders victory.
"All you can ask your kids to do is play hard for 48 minutes," Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor said. "That's what they did. You go back and forth in a game like this, with two good football teams, and the one football team just made one more good play than we did.
"That doesn't take away from how hard the kids played or how badly I know they wanted to win."
The game up to the Fitch grab was almost as exciting as the play that provided the winning margin.
The Redskins led 13-7 at halftime, and the score remained that way until late in the third quarter when Burress provided some excitement for the Purple Riders faithful. Two plays after the Redskins turned the ball over on downs at the Ferry 17, Burress busted loose for an 80-yard scoring run, and kicked the point after for a 14-13 Riders lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
"I just told them when I look at Indian Creek on film and I look at our kids they're such a mirror image of each other," said Bruney of his halftime talk. "They fight, scratch, and claw for everything they get. I just asked them, 'what more could you ask for? This is a great high school football game, and if we fight hard it's going to come down to the fourth quarter and it'll be a nail biter'.
"I told them, ' if you've got guts and courage, because we know those kids do, it'll be a great game in the second half'. We were able to make one more play than they were."
Indian Creek answered back on the ensuing drive, marching 58 yards in 11 plays, capped by Zach Connor powering in from 1-yard out. The big play came on third-and-13 when Jonathan Woodbury avoided a sack and hit Johnny Haught for a 20-yard pass. Woodbury punched in the 2-point conversion to give the Redskins a 21-14 advantage with 10:15 left in the game.
The Purple Riders were poised to provide an answer of their own, driving to the Indian Creek 10, but on third-and-nine from the 11, Burress was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Blake Roar.
Martins Ferry provided more fireworks after forcing the Redskins to punt from their own 11 on the ensuing possession. Jake Barritt took the punt, made the first man miss, and raced 41 yards for paydirt. Burress' extra point tied the game at 21-21 with 5:17 left.
Creek fumbled the kickoff and Ferry recovered at the Redskins' 17, but Creek forced a turnover on downs, and took over at it's own 21 with 3:41 left.
Roar busted loose on the next play for a 50-yard gain to the Riders' 29, but Ferry forced it's own turnover on downs leading to the Edwards to Fitch heroics.
The Riders opened the scoring with a favorable bounce. Fitch, who started at quarterback, had a snap off his facemask, but Marcus Sutton picked up the fumble, saw a hole, and raced 13 yards to the end zone. Burress first point after made it 7-0.
Indian Creek answered with an 18-play, 65-yard drive that ate 7:17 off the clock and consisted of all running plays. Woodbury scored on his own 13-yard run on fourth and four, and Lee Utt kicked the extra point to tie the game. The Redskins took the lead with a much less time consuming drive, going 74 yards in three plays and taking only 30 seconds. Roar did the major damage with a 52-yard scoring run. The extra point was blocked, but the Redskins took a 13-7 lead they'd hold at the half.
Edwards came up with some big plays after taking over the quarterbacking duties in the second quarter. The sophomore was 7-for-15 for 158 yards with the game-winning touchdown pass and one pick. Fitch led the purple Riders with 111 yards and a score on two grabs. Burress led the rushing attack with 125 yards and a score on 12 carries.
"He's a sophomore, he's a heady kid, but physically he's just not quite ready to play varsity football, but he did a heck of a job tonight," said Bruney of Edwards. "I'm very proud of all of them. We had to suspend our quarterback and we had some young kids step up and do a heck of a job. We're just real proud of all of them."
Martins Ferry (7-1) is at Edison next Friday.