The St. Matthew Tigers senior boys foot-ball team came up short in their effort to defend the city championship on Tuesday after they were denied a game ending touchdown by the referees.
Trailing 24-22 against the St. Joseph Jaguars with less than two minutes on the clock, the Tigers were able to march the ball 73 yards down the field to the Jaguars’ seven-yard line.
On first and seven, quarterback Jackson Plante was able to move the ball up three yards to the Jaguars’ four-yard line.
Needing only four yards for a touchdown and the win, Plante called his own number again, but was stopped just short of the goal line leaving Tigers’ head coach Geoff Coventry with a decision to go for the major or attempt a 15 yard field goal.
Confident that Plante and the Tigers’ offensive line would be able to pick up the yard they needed for the win, Coventry decided to go for the latter. What ensued was a massive pile up at the goal line. As some of the Tigers raised their arms to signal a touchdown, including Plante, the officials conferred and concluded that he was just inches short giving the underdog Jaguars the improbable win.
The Tigers went into the game as heavy favourites, having won all five of their previous games by an average of 35 points, including a 46-13 win over St. Joe’s in their regular season match up on Nov. 3. And for the first half of Tuesday’s game, they lived up to their pre-game status, scoring two converted touchdowns in the first quarter.
The first touchdown came on a 55-yard pass from Plante to Pantelis Livadiotakis-Fraser on the Tigers’ opening series of the game. Their second major was scored by Nathan Assivero on a 30-yard run after the Jaguars were assessed a pair of 15-yard penalties on the previous punt.
After the Tigers scored their second touchdown, the Jags were able to answer back with a 75-yard drive for their first major of the game to make the score 14-7.
Unfazed, the Tigers managed to put together their longest drive of the game on the next series, moving the ball 77 yards on 10 plays, including a spectacular fingertip catch by Christos Zigoumis.
The final blow came on 20-yard pass from Plante to Livadiotakis-Fraser, who were able to hook up again to put the Tigers in front 20-7.
The Tigers would threaten to score again midway through the second quarter, but they turned the ball over on a fumble on the Jaguars’ 24-yard line.
The Tigers had 262 yards in total offence in the first half compared to 126 yards for the Jaguars who also had 95 yards in penalties.
Plante was the biggest factor on the field in the first half, completing nine of 12 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, but then everything changed in the third quarter.
The Tigers offence, which was practically unstoppable in the first half, couldn’t pick up a first down on their first two series in the second half and had to yield a pair of safeties on back-to-back possessions rather than risk giving the Jaguars the ball inside their own end.
After the Tigers went three and out on their third series of the half, the Jaguars were able to get the ball on St. Matt’s 40-yard line thanks to 15-yard penalty against the Tigers on the punt return.
It took the Jaguars just three plays to find the end zone on a trick play, but the touchdown was called back on the account that they had thrown back-to-back forward passes on the play. So instead of narrowing the score to 20-18, they found themselves facing a first and 20 on the 28-yard line.
What followed was a 10 yard completion that ended up being first and goal on the one-yard line when the Tigers’ tackler on the play was penalized for leading with his head.
It took just one play for the Jaguars to score and add an extra point to make it a two point game.
The situation would go from bad to worse for the Tigers when they fumbled the ensuing kick-off to give the Jaguars another set of downs on St. Matt’s 27-yard line.
Three plays later the Jaguars scored again to take a 24-20 lead. They then attempted a two-point convert to try and extend their lead to six points, but the pass fell incomplete.
Trailing by four points, St. Matt’s were able to move the ball effectively on their next series, but an offside call on third and goal from the one-yard line moved them back to the six.
Rather than attempt a field goal from the 21-yard line, the Tigers went for it on third and six only to have Plante’s pass fall incomplete in the end zone.
On the Jaguars’ next series, it was their turn to concede a safety, making it just a two-point game and giving the Tigers the opportunity to win the game with a field goal.
What followed was the Tigers ill-fated final drive and two questionable calls – one by the Tigers coaching staff to go for the touchdown on third and one rather than attempt a field goal, and one by the officials in not signalling a touchdown on the final play that would have given St. Matt's the win and the city championship for a second straight year, but such is the unpredictability of high school sport.