Dwyer falls 22-20 in Class 4A state semifinal on final play
Friday, December 10, 2010
by Matt Porter
SEFFNER - It was a season that began and ended in heartbreak.
After Dwyer drove 74 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes Friday night, Armwood's Darrell "Ash" Dudney kicked a 44-yard field goal as the final second ticked off the clock, beating the Panthers 22-20 in the Class 4A state semifinal.
Armwood (14-0) advanced to next week's final. Dwyer (12-2), the defending state champion, was sent home.
Dwyer looked like it was on its way to the championship game after its last-minute scoring drive.
Jacoby Brissett --- just as he did in Dwyer's season-opening loss to Cleveland-Glenville -- put the Panthers on his back in the critical drive, which gave Dwyer a 20-19 lead with 19 seconds remaining.
On that drive, Brissett found receivers for gains of 14 and 10 yards, and took a quarterback keeper for 9 yards on a crucial fourth-and-6.
With a defender hanging on him, Brissett (10-for-26, 115 yards) hit Tommylee Lewis in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left.
But Armwood had the answer.
Starting from his own 33 after the kick, senior quarterback Josh Grady hit senior tailback Matt Jones for a gain of 29, and then took a keeper himself for 9 yards.
Armwood's Dudney set up from 44 yards out. The kick was straight, a bit wobbly, and for Dwyer, crushing.
"Nothing I can say (to the players)," coach Jack Daniels said. "Just that I'm extremely proud of them."
Dwyer went up 5-0 on a 25-yard Bobby Puyol field goal and a safety, which occurred after Armwood snapped the ball out of the end zone on a punt. But the Hawks answered, as Grady hit Jones for a 72-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
Puyol hit his second of the game from 37 yards to make it 8-7, before Grady hit Ronnie Thomas for a 38-yard score.
"Uncharacteristic, we busted some coverages," Daniels said. "We knew our secondary had holes. We got exposed tonight."
Dwyer's Leroy Kelson and Keith Bowers stopped the two-point rush. In the third quarter, Kelson stripped Grady at Dwyer's 4-yard line, and Lewis picked up the gift and raced 96 yards for a score that made it 14-13.
Grady hit Thomas for a 60-yard catch-and-run that made it 19-14. Another two-point try failed, and it was a 19-14 game until Brissett's dramatic drive.
The Panthers were without star Nick O'Leary for most of the game due to a shoulder injury. O'Leary left the game in the first quarter after hauling in a 16-yard pass from Brissett, his only reception of the game, was without feeling in the shoulder immediately afterward.
That meant Brissett's final effort was even more vital.
"You saw it. Not much I can say," Daniels said. "He led us on a drive with our best offensive player in Nick out for the entire game. It's just Jacoby. He's a winner."
Senior defensive end Curt Maggitt took out two Armwood linemen and sacked Grady for a loss of 10, forcing Armwood to punt before Brissett's go-ahead drive. Like nearly all of his teammates, he could hardly speak afterward.
Armwood players cried and hugged after the game, with Dudney spinning like a top around the field. He bounced off teammates and babbled through his first newspaper interview.
"I've done a lot of crazy stuff, but this is ..." he began. "Going to state ... "
Dudney then collected himself.
"I just had to act like it was just another extra point. To me, at the end of the day, it's just a football game."
For Dwyer, it certainly felt like a lot more than that.
"Failure. We didn't win the state championship so it's a failure," Daniels said.