With a dirty piece of tape across his busted up nose and a trickle of blood running down his lip, Mishawaka's Matt Carver talked about getting a chance — just one more chance.
A wild, ill-timed Concord kickoff and a shrewd, yet confident, decision by Mishawaka coach Bart Curtis opened the door.
Carver responded by slamming the door shut on a Cavemen Class 4A state finals berth.
After Trevor Wilmore's brilliant, scrambling 42-yard touchdown pass to Dakota Simon gave the Minutemen a 21-21 tie with 1:11 left in Friday's semistate tug-of-war, Concord's ensuing kickoff sailed left and out of bounds. Earlier in the game, Mishawaka simply declined the penalty and took the ball at the 35.
But Curtis said no — kick it again.
Carver took the next try at his 14 yardline, waited for blockers to open a crease to his right and raced down the CHS sidelines for 56 yards to the Minutemen 30. Five plays later, Daniel Blackford tapped through a game-winning field goal as time expired.
In the end, the biggest play in a game filled with spectacular efforts, was a re-do.
“Uh uh ... we've got a good kick return so why not take a shot?” Curtis said emphatically as a wild community celebration surrounded him in the middle of Jake Field.
Curtis said he never hesitated in making Concord kick over.
“Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” he said.
Carver felt blessed.
“I saw it, I had to hit it,” Carver said. “I was thankful he gave me another chance ... just give us a chance to win the game, get it in field position. We had confidence in Daniel. We just had to get the ball back on the other side of the field again.”
Tim Dawson, Concord's coach, praised his special teams play all season — from punting to kickoffs to coverages. With the exception of the one play, it's been a real strength of the Minutemen all fall.
“It's amazing, ironic that that happens because all year long, we've had great coverage,'' Dawson said. “I think that's the first time anybody's returned the ball past our 40.”
Sam Schrader, Mishawaka's nails-tough quarterback then broke Concord's back with a 23-yard scamper to the 7. Three short Schrader dives set up Blackford.
“Worst kick of my life,” Blackford said. “It's alright though.”
The worst kick of his life led to the worst kick to the belly in the lives of the Minutemen seniors.
It was a tremendous high school football game. Plain and simple.
“We left it on the field,” Dawson said. “I'm proud of our kids.”
“It's tough. We worked our butts off,'' said Franko House, the ringleader of a stellar Concord senior class. “Just two seconds away. It's just killing all of us.”
Contact Bill Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org