The game seemed over. Third-ranked DeMatha's potential game-winning field goal had been blocked. Good Counsel star linebacker Akeem Hebron joyously hugged Coach Bob Milloy, and teammates moved toward midfield to line up for a postgame handshake.
In a series that lately has produced some of the Washington area's most thrilling finishes, yesterday's might have the most bizarre. Because the Stags tried to kick on third down and the ball was blocked behind the line of scrimmage and DeMatha's Kevin Jackson recovered, they retained possession of the ball. And while DeMatha was out of timeouts, the clock stopped with 4.7 seconds remaining because an injured Good Counsel player lay on the field.
Given another opportunity to win the game, DeMatha kicker Matt Campbell made a 39-yard field goal, lifting the Stags to a stunning 22-21 victory over the 19th-ranked Falcons in a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game before 3,500.
"Thank god for second chances," said Campbell, who earlier made a 47-yard field goal and missed from 39 yards.
Milloy was in disbelief over the ending. "The clock expired," he said. "The [official] on our side of the field said the game was over."
Three years ago, DeMatha rallied to beat Good Counsel in the playoffs on a last-minute field goal. Last year, Good Counsel seemed ready to win the WCAC championship game until its quarterback turned the wrong way on an option pitch in the final minutes, and DeMatha pounced on the loose ball to claim victory.
And the teams could do it again in two weeks. Yesterday's game simply decided the top seed in the WCAC playoffs. Since DeMatha (9-1, 7-0) and Good Counsel won their other league games by an average of 32 points -- with no game closer than 16 points -- a rematch on Nov. 20 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis seems likely.
But it will be difficult for the teams to top yesterday's game. Good Counsel led 14-3, then answered a DeMatha score with quarterback Zachary Ingle's 12-yard touchdown run for a 21-11 lead early in the fourth quarter.
DeMatha, though, got within 21-19 on Mealy's one-yard touchdown run with seven minutes left. The Stags got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining and used a fourth-down pass interference call to help move into field goal range.
"I knew that one was good right off my foot," Campbell said.