MONROEVILLE – Maybe you call this Irony On Two, because it was just about the only thing that didn’t go according to plan this magical Friday night. Or Onside, Schmonside, because that fits, too.
In any case, the second-half kickoff sailed straight up into the sky, as Heritage and unbeaten Class 3A No. 1 Jimtown fought over a sectional title. And when it came down, the Jimmies began to go down with it.
Heritage recovered the untouched pooch kick, and Conner Sheehan, having the night of his life, made Jimtown pay with a 33-yard touchdown to Brenton Lockett on fourth-and-10 three plays later, putting the Patriots (10-2) two scores to the good, just as planned, on their way to a 40-29 victory that sent Jimtown (11-1) to the sidelines. Heritage advances to the regional for the first time since 2004.
“We wanted to come out hot and keep the pedal down and score early and often on them and make them change their game plan,” Heritage coach Dean Lehrman said.
“They’re not used to playing from behind. They’ve been used to just running the ball, running the ball, running the ball, and we didn’t think they could take playing from two scores behind.”
And that pooch kick?
“Wasn’t really planned to be an onside,” he said. “But we’ll sure take it.”
Take it they did, in just about every way possible.
While the defense for the most part took away the Jimmies’ running game – leading rusher Devan Emerson, who came in averaging 95 yards, scratched out just 9 yards on nine carries – Sheehan repeatedly burned a Jimtown defense, which had given up just 66 points all season until Friday.
Sheehan threw for 316 yards and five touchdowns, three to Ben Gibson, and repeatedly lured the aggressive Jimmies’ defense offside with hard counts.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Sheehan said. “When we could run the ball, we were going to run it, and when we could throw the ball, we were going to throw it.”
The Patriots started quickly against Jimtown’s stout defense, driving 78 yards on their second possession highlighted by Sheehan’s 26-yard throw to Wil Knapke and his 31-yard strike to Gibson.
Three plays after that, Gibson made a leaping, twisting grab in the back of the end zone, and Heritage led 6-0 with 5:28 to play in the first quarter.
Jimtown rallied to take leads of 7-6 and 15-12, but each time Heritage answered.
The last time came with 1:52 to play in the first half, when Sheehan, eluding an all-out blitz, found Gibson for 11 yards, Zach Toles for 34 and C.J. Whitman for 19 and the six, sending Heritage to halftime with a 19-15 lead it would never relinquish.