LaGRANGE — For a split-second, it appeared there would be a second overtime Friday night.
On a high snap following Buckeye’s tying touchdown, holder Nathan Polidori grabbed the ball and rolled to his right. He was met by a scrum of Keystone defenders around the 1-yard line.
Before Polidori was ruled down, the ball squirted free and rolled into the end zone, where sophomore lineman Kyle Svagerko pounced on it for an unconventional 2-point conversion.
After the officials conferred at midfield, they ruled that the conversion stood, giving the Bucks a wild 29-27 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win over Keystone at Wildcat Stadium.
The win keeps Buckeye (5-4, 5-1) alive for a share of the Stars Division title, while the loss prevents Keystone (6-3, 5-1) from winning its first outright conference title since 1971. The Wildcats need a win over first-place Black River (7-2, 6-0) in Week 10 to share the title.
“Our kids fell on the ball a lot tonight, and that helped us,” said first-year Buckeye coach Mark Pinzone, whose team recovered two Keystone fumbles and picked off a Tyler Gullett pass.
“Nathan Polidori plays defensive back for us and some receiver. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s a great, heady kid. We rely on him for a lot of things.
“It was a high snap, but fortunately he handled it, he rolled out and tried to make something of it, which is what he does. It didn’t look pretty, but it fell our way, and that’s that.”
Keystone, which went on offense first in overtime, only took three plays to score and gain their second lead of the night. A 17-yard scramble by Gullett, who gained 138 yards on 23 carries, set up junior Tyler Polen’s 4-yard touchdown run.
However, on the extra point, the snap was short. Keystone’s holder tried to run with it, but pitched it back to kicker Turner Geisel, whose desperation pass fell incomplete well short of the end zone.
Buckeye took over at the Keystone 20 and a 9-yard run by Fortney on third down made it first-and-goal from the 6.
Fortney, who gained a game-high 167 yards on 31 carries, took four straight shotgun snaps. He gained 2 yards on first down, 3 on second, was held to no gain on third down and used a great second effort to bulldoze his way into the end zone on fourth down from just inside the 1 to tie the score at 27.
“We decided to call ‘Wham,’ which is where the guard pulls over and I fake (the handoff) and just run straight up the middle,” Fortney said. “The goal is to get into the end zone as fast as possible — no jukes, no nothing. We knew it was going to work the whole time, but it took us four downs to do it.”
Unlike the NFL, where the “Holy Roller Rule” states that balls fumbled forward in the last two minutes can’t be advanced or become scores, high school football has no such rule. It’s up to the officials to determine if the ball was deliberately batted forward or not, and they determined the fumble was not deliberate.
“They said that, on a 2-point conversion, you’re allowed to fumble forward into the end zone,” Keystone coach Rob Clarico said. “I think that we played better in the second half than we did in the first half. I think we were passive and not physical enough in the first half, and against a good football team like Buckeye, you have to bring it all four quarters.”
Buckeye jumped out to a 6-0 lead after recovering an onside kick by Keystone and going 45 yards in three plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Trevor Thome.
After a 30-yard field-goal attempt by George Rusinko went wide right, Keystone got the big play it needed early in the second quarter. Polen took a handoff up the middle and raced untouched for an 80-yard touchdown. Giesel’s kick made it 7-6.
A 74-yard pass from Petek to Jeff Susalla down to the 1 set up Fortney’s first touchdown. Fortney added the 2-point conversion to make it 14-7 with 7:16 left in the first half.
Keystone answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Gullett kept it himself from a yard out with 3:06 left in the first half, making it 14-all at halftime.
An interception by Petek on Keystone’s first possession of the second half led to Fortney’s second touchdown, from 25 yards. But Gullett broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run with 6:42 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 21.
“Cody Fortney’s run the ball hard all year,” Pinzone said. “He’s played in pain and we lean on him every week. But like I said, even though Cody’s the guy with the ball in his hands, and that’s what everyone is watching in the stands, I don’t want to take anything away from the guys on our front line. They do a fantastic job.”
Keystone had a chance to take the lead in regulation, putting together a 12-play, 78-yard drive that melted six minutes off the clock and moved the Wildcats from their 17 to the Buckeye 5. But Gullett’s option pitch to Polen fell short and was recovered by Polidori to end the threat.
“They’re both really good players -- two of the better players we have,” Clarico said. “I thought they both had their ups and downs in this game, like everyone else. For all the great runs Polen had, he had a fumble. Gullett had a great game on both sides of the ball, but he had that big turnover down in the red zone late. Just too many mistakes, and not physical enough play for us tonight.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.