Korb, Stepec Save Cougars' Season in 2OT Epic
Lake Catholic rallies from 2 touchdowns down in second half
Standing in the middle of Jerome T. Osborne Stadium, you know it’s never a good sign when you can hear the It’s Better in Mentor Festival in the fairgrounds just beyond the goalposts.
In a dreary scene, the student section and band outnumbered the home crowd, the rain began to fall as promised and Cardinal Mooney had just taken a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter over a Lake Catholic team staring into the abyss of a potential fourth straight loss.
Cougars coach Mike Bell decided enough was enough and dropped his hammer, one donning a No. 7 green jersey – John Stepec. Pounding and bashing his way through the Cardinals’ defense, the senior led the Cougars on a furious rally to win, 24-21, in two overtimes and preserved the school’s playoff hopes.
Stepec rushed for two touchdowns on 30 carries for 178 yards.
Joe Korb kicked a 17-yard, game-winning field goal in the second overtime to defeat the defending Division III state champions after Mooney kicker Zak Kennedy missed a 23-yarder on the prior series.
In overtime, Lake Catholic’s Bret Zimmerman and Justus Ellis-Moore traded touchdown runs of 3 and 11 yards respectively to knot the score at 21.
Korb said he felt the entire school and the season was on the line for the Cougars. Plus he felt an added bit of pressure because he had just missed a 31-yard field goal attempt with the score tied, 14-14, with 47 seconds left.
“I felt a lot of pressure coming in, but my team had a lot of confidence in me. After I missed the first one, the team told me I’ll have a second chance, and that I can do it,” Korb said. “I felt like if I was to miss, the season would crumble down on me, and I’d feel like it was my fault. The seniors deserve better from me, and they will get better (from me).”
The Cougars rose to 2-3, while Cardinal Mooney fell to 2-3.
When the team fell down two touchdowns, Coach Mike Bell simply focused on the game in front of him and not whether a loss would crush the team’s morale.
“You can’t look at the whole big picture that way in moments like that. It’s about getting the ball back on your next possession. Hey, let’s answer. Let’s try to get the ball down into the red zone and then into the end zone. That’s as far as that goes,” Bell said.
Stepec was down on the ground briefly after his 2-yard run in the first overtime set up Zimmerman’s go-ahead score. A little talking from the Cardinals got him going, though.
“He just hit my thigh pretty good. And then No. 9 (Courtney Love) started talking, and I got right back up and said, ‘I’m ready. Let’s go. Let’s finish this game. ‘ “
At first, it looked like Stepec would be leading the Cougars to the game’s first score after he broke free and hopped over Mark Handel for a 25-yard gain to the Mooney 25 with just under a minute left in first quarter. But on the next play, quarterback Dylan Bell fumbled leaving the ball at the Mooney 18.
Cardinal back Ellis-Moore took the next snap and blazed untouched down the left sideline for 82-yard TD run to put Mooney up, 7-0, as the first quarter ended.
In the opening drive of the second half, fullback Anthony Dermotta carried a quick-hitter for 64 yards to the Lake Catholic 3-yard line where Marcus McWilson finished off the five-play drive for 14-0 lead at 9:42 of the third quarter.
But the Cougars rallied immediately on the next series as Stepec capped off a 12-play drive with a 4-yard TD run. Korb had his kick blocked and Mooney led, 14-6, with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Lake Catholic’s Mike Robinson stepped in front of a Denver Martin pass at his team’s 32-yard line. Thus began the 18-play drive that tied the game and a play that might have changed the Cougars’ season.
Stalled at their own 29-yard line at 4th-and-13, and the Cougars in a punt formation, Bell took a direct snap from center and threw a laser to tight-end Malcolm Reho for 15 yards giving Lake Catholic life.
With healthy doses of Stepec, the bull of a rusher punched it in from a yard out for a TD to end the more than nine-minute drive. Stepec then ran it again to tie the score, 14-14, with 2:06 left in the fourth quarter.
With 50.7 seconds left in the game and the Cardinals prepared to punt from their 34-yard line, a snap sailed over Kennedy’s head and the Cougars got possession at the 11. But after three plays and a delay-of-game penalty that pushed the ball back to the 14, Korb missed a 31-yard field goal attempt that sent the game into overtime.
The Cougars travel and face Archbishop Hoban at 7 p.m.
Cardinal Mooney 7 0 7 0 7 0 21
Lake Catholic 0 0 7 7 7 3 24
Cardinal Mooney – Ellis-Moore 82 run (Kennedy kick)
Cardinal Mooney – McWilson 3 run (Kennedy kick)
Lake Catholic – Stepec 4 run (kick blocked)
Lake Catholic – Stepec 1 run (Stepec run conversion)
Lake Catholic – Zimmerman 3 run (Korb kick)
Cardinal Mooney – Ellis-Moore 11 run (Kennedy kick)
Lake Catholic – Korb 17-yard field goal