WEST GOSHEN >> Downingtown West entered Friday night with playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
The Whippets needed nearly every play of the game to keep those hopes alive.
Quarterback Kyle Geiser hit Cole Zapf on fourth down at the West Chester East 10 yard line and the Whippets clinched a 34-32 win with two-tenths of a second left in a wild Ches-Mont League National showdown at Zimmerman Stadium.
“That’s the weirdest football game I was ever involved in,” said Downingtown West head coach Mike Milano. “Kick blocks, kick returns, stops in the red zone, our offense stuttered. It was a weird game.”
The fourth quarter saw West Chester East score 19 points and Downingtown West score 23. For the first three quarters, both teams wouldn’t score more than seven points in any quarter.
“I’m going to remember this game when I’m 95 years old on a rocking chair telling my grandkids, ‘West Chester East, we won with .2 seconds left,’” Geiser said.
Geiser and Zapf came up clutch for their team with the game on the line.
With 1:08 left in the game and the Whippets needing to score, the offense was tasked with driving down from its own 48-yard line. The offense made a couple of quick completions and a key pass interference call on West Chester East placed the ball on East’s 10-yard line. Geiser threw a couple of incompletions to bring up fourth down with five seconds left on the clock. Geiser dropped back to pass and rolled out to his right to survey his receivers. His first option wasn’t there, so he looked to his left with the rush coming from behind and found Zapf in the end zone for a touchdown.
“I dropped back and was looking at the cross country and it wasn’t there,” Geiser said. “I looked back and the rush was coming through and I flushed back. I saw Cole at the last moment with the defender there so I threw it over him. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
“I just wanted something to happen, anything,” Zapf said. “Barely five seconds left. I saw the ball coming and I was not dropping that ball. “
Geiser’s final stat line consists of eight completions in 15 attempts for 63 yards and one game-winning touchdown.
Zapf had three touchdowns on the day — an eight-yard rushing touchdown on the Whippets’ first drive, a 90-yard kickoff return to start the fourth and he caught the game-winning touchdown. He carried the ball eight times for 18 yards.
West Chester East beat Downingtown West in passing and rushing yards, but it was the Whippets’ special teams that helped give them the win.
With Zapf’s 90-yard kickoff return, the Whippets’ special teams managed to block and return a field goal for a touchdown.
“The kick return for a touchdown was huge because we were down two scores,” Milano said. “And it kept us in the game. There were many big plays after that.”
TJ Simmons returned the blocked kick 72 yards, putting West up 27-20 with less than five minutes in the game.
“It felt fantastic. It was probably the greatest play I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Simmons said. “We were just looking for a spark and I could be that spark. It wasn’t even just me it was everybody just keeping together. At the end, everyone was linking up and you know we are a family. One person can light that spark but it keeps a whole team to keep it burning. I’m running down the field and all I’m thinking is, ‘Don’t get caught, just don’t get caught.’”
“The blocked PAT and the kick return were huge,” said Gueriera. “You don’t account for it before the game but they had 16 points off of their special teams.”
Viking tailback Jared Cooper tried to carry his team to a win, making big plays throughout the game. The Vikings’ opened the game with 16 straight Cooper running plays. He ran for 229 yards on 32 carries while scoring three rushing touchdowns. His three touchdowns were from 18, 20 and 60 yards out. The 60-yard touchdown came after with 3:01 left in the fourth quarter. The Vikings did not go for the tie, instead failing on a two-point conversion, leaving them down, 27-26, in the fourth quarter
Up next for Downingtown West is a must-win Ches-Mont game at West Chester Henderson Friday. West Chester East will head to Sun Valley for a nonleague crossover.
“We ran out of time but they are a good football team,” Gueriera said. “We knew they were going to come in here and give us everything we can handle. I’m proud of the way we responded to every adversity we fought through. And I just feel bad for the kids. We are in a must-win situation next week. We got to get back to the grind. We proved that we can hang with the top teams in the Chest-Mont.”