FORT WASHINGTON >> Germantown Academy had Father Judge right where they wanted them: tie game with 15 seconds left, inside Father Judge’s 5-yard-line courtesy of a clutch interception, waiting for the game-winning field goal to fly through the uprights. But then senior kicker Michael Capone pulled the chip-shot wide to the left.
In overtime, Capone got his second chance. After Father Judge won the coin toss and thus received first possession, Crusaders running back Tim Weldon put them ahead by a score, but kicker Jack Isdell booted the extra point a couple feet too short.
Germantown Academy running back Tanner Long tied the game on the ensuing drive. He received a pass from quarterback Colton Niedzielski and bounced off tacklers like a pinball machine, ultimately finding his way into the end zone. In came Capone, who turned it into a story of redemption for himself and a 21-20 win for the Patriots.
“I don’t say much to (Capone),” Germantown Academy head coach Matt Dence said. “You give him some confidence and he has a strong enough leg and enough attention to detail. The whole team went out there and picked him up and I think that helped in the end.”
While Capone had a flair for the dramatics, it would be unjust to take anything away from the competitiveness of the game itself. It was a constant back-and-forth struggle that featured some strong quarterback play, but also some grave errors by said quarterbacks. Both defenses were especially strong.
“Our defensive preparation is outstanding,” Dence said. “(Defensive coordinator) Steve Moll and his defensive staff is as good as they come and our kids buy into the scheme and work hard.”
One defensive standout in particular was sophomore cornerback Shane Harkins. With a minute left in the game, Harkins picked off Father Judge quarterback Shane Dooley around Germantown Academy’s own 40 yard-line. After the Patriots failed to capitalize and were forced to punt, Dooley made another interception, this time the recipient of a poor decision by Dooley. Harkins was chased down inside the five, setting Capone up for the aforementioned field goal that he ultimately missed.
Harkins, who also plays wide receiver, called it the “coolest” moment of his young football career.
“I’ve been playing football since I was five years old starting with flag [football], and nothing can top that,” Harkins said. “I was going to cut back (near the goal line), but I decided to leave it up to my offense to try and do the job.
“I told (Capone) we’re going to get him another shot again,” Harkins continued. “I knew in overtime he would get another chance.”
On the ground, Father Judge presented a steady mix of Weldon and junior Katob Joseph. Dooley himself routinely escaped pressure and scampered for respectable yardage. Germantown Academy, on the other hand, does not deploy what football enthusiasts would call a prototypical running back.
Senior Tanner Long is almost the lead back by default, while freshman Lacey Snowden’s role in the offense will continue to grow as the season goes on. In fact, Snowden ripped off a 63-yard run on the opening play from scrimmage in the second half, his first touch of the game. He was used only modestly thereafter. Sophomore Trae Vance also sees time in the backfield and continues to polish his game.
Long, while effective in short-yard situations, is not a workhouse back because, well, he’s literally the size of a linebacker. In fact, he’s committed to the University of Pennsylvania to play linebacker for the Quakers next season.
“We used to be more of a spread offense, and then when I’m back there it’s more of a ground and pound up the middle,” Long said. “We have a much bigger (offensive) line this year, probably the biggest line we’ve had since Coach Dence has been here. We like to ground and pound the ball behind our lead blockers and tire the defense out.”
But on Saturday afternoon he shined bright as an offensive playmaker. In a do-or-die overtime spot, Long gathered the dump-off pass and refused to go down.
“I wanted to score for our guys,” Long said. “When I got the ball I just knew I wasn’t going down. It was a nice play and I’m proud of (Capone) for bouncing back. After he missed that field goal I told him to get the next one. I knew we were going to need him to win it for us again.”
As for Dence, not only did his team grind out a win, but he also beat his Alma mater in the process.
“I’m sure there’s probably people in the area who didn’t think the game was going to be competitive and that (Father Judge) was going to impose their will on us,” Dence said. “I know what a Judge man is all about. They’re physical, hard-nosed kids. But I think we’ve brought a little bit of that to Germantown Academy.”