Linsly holds on to win, 26-20

WHEELING – Linsly coach B.J. Depew bent down, opened his arms, and awaited the arrival of his 1-year-old daughter, Noelle, who was sprinting across Holloway Field, wanting to, in theory, congratulate her dad on his team’s 26-20 victory against the Columbus Crusaders on Saturday.

”Can you believe that just happened?” Depew asked his daughter as they embraced.

Noelle couldn’t believe it either.

Here’s what those two were talking about.

Linsly was hanging on to a perilous six-point lead with 3:06 remaining, facing a fourth-and-12 at its 18-yard line with absolutely zero momentum. The Crusaders, behind a backup quarterback, had ripped off 12 unanswered points in a seven-minute span and were looking for more.

The plan was to punt the ball, play field position, and believe in the defense.

Linsly sophomore Erick Taylor and senior Zak Kriechbaum had other ideas.

Depew had Taylor, the Cadets’ backup quarterback and personal protector on the punt team, back as the punter, hoping to catch the Crusaders off guard.

”We were only shifting out of the formation so that our personal protector could punt that ball,” Depew said of a call made by special teams coordinator James Wallace.

Amid all of the confusion, Kriechbaum, normally the team’s punter, was wide to the left as a gunner, in an area code all his own.

Kriechbaum was practically doing jumping jacks at the snap, hoping Taylor would see no one was within 20 yards of him. Taylor noticed, and zipped a pass to him for a 13-yard gain – and a game-clinching first down.

No wonder Noelle couldn’t believe it.

It was the biggest, but it wasn’t the only play Kriechbaum made for the Cadets, who get a ton of mileage out of the kid.

By that time, he’d already picked off two passes, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown.

He also caught four passes for 51 yards.

It was a game Linsly nearly had put away with Chimechi Oparanozie scoring three rushing touchdowns (3, 3, and 22 yards) on his way to a 26-carry, 193-yard afternoon.

The Cadets (4-2) led 26-7 with 19 minutes remaining before Daniel Patton took over for a battered Josh Hayes and led them on two touchdown drives. Patton wound up completing 2 of 4 passes for 76 yards and added a 6-yard rushing score.