Both Piedmont and Bishop McGuinness entered the final night of the regular season with little to play for in the district standings.
McGuinness had already clinched first place and Piedmont needed the most unlikely of scenarios to unfold (Southeast beating Carl Albert) to make the postseason. So it could’ve been a lethargic game, but it was far from it.
Fighting Irish senior quarterback Jacob Mullins went 16 of 24 for 276 yards and threw three touchdown passes, including two to receiver Rubell Goe, and McGuinness escaped Piedmont’s upset bid, 35-20.
“I told our kids before the game, it’s a trap game, essentially,” said McGuinness head coach Justin Jones. “I think for us, the big picture was that we wanted to be playoff ready and be on point from the get-go here tonight.”
Piedmont found its own motivation. Playing on senior night, the Wildcats got big contributions from part of its nine-man senior class.
Senior defensive back Kanton Logan intercepted a pass, receiver Delbert Todd scored on a 30-yard reception, kicker Butch Hampton executed a successful onside kick in the final minute of the game and hit a pair of field goals while Hunter Chism reeled in a spectacular 30-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-12 play in the fourth quarter.
“It was fun to see the spark come, in a lot of ways, from our seniors. All the seniors had a great night,” Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen said. “Chism made an amazing catch. I still don’t know how he caught it.”
Chism’s catch brought Piedmont within a score, 21-13, with 9:39 to play. McGuinness, which capped off a perfect 7-0 district record with the win, answered back quickly, though. Mullins passed to Goe for a 48-yard touchdown to cap a four-play, 75-yard drive that lasted only 1:14. Kolby Mendenhell seemingly iced the game with a 52-yard touchdown run a little more than three minutes later.
“We were glad we were able to come back and score quickly there,” Jones said. “Piedmont came out and played well. You’ve got to give credit to them.”
Piedmont fought back again. Trailing by 22 with less than two minutes to play, Todd willed his way into the end zone by breaking three tackles to pull Piedmont within two scores. Hampton’s ensuing onside kick was recovered, and for a brief moment there was a hope of a wild last-minute rally. But the Wildcats couldn’t pick up a first down and McGuinness ran out the clock.
“There was that glimmer of opportunity when we got the onside, but it didn’t work out,” Gossen said.
Quarterback Noah Ellis finished the game 14 of 32 for 180 yards passing. McGuinness running back Zach Segell ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Gossen thought a strong effort against the district’s best team was a good end to the season. Especially for his seniors.
“I was extremely proud of how we fought,” he said. “I truly believe that some of the things these seniors have imparted on this team are going to be things that last long after they are gone.