Osborne Leads Stunning 23-20 OT Comeback over Wildcats

Ashwin Prasad

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Sophomore quarterback Zach Osborne had struggled all game, throwing two interceptions and fumbling on fourth down.

He wasn’t going to let that stop him. 

On the second play of overtime, Osborne pulled the ball out of senior running back Dylan Downing’s hands and charged into the end zone from 8 yards out to seal a miraculous 23-20 comeback triumph over the Lawrence North Wildcats (2-3).

It certainly didn’t come easy. CHS (4-1) had to overcome a 339-245 yardage disparity, an outstanding effort by Lawrence North junior quarterback Donaven McCulley, three ugly turnovers, and a 10-0 shutout in the first half to earn a signature victory that will be looked upon as a season-defining moment should this team fulfil their championship potential.

Head Coach John Hebert said he wishes the urgency and energy needed to overturn the deficit were present for a full game. “If you lose a game like this, you spend (a lot) of time trying to get (the team) from getting too down, and trying to harness the urgency you tend to have when you lose in a heartbreaking manner.

“Now you pull a game out like this, it’s emotional, you find a way to win, but it doesn’t erase the fact that we put ourselves in bad positions. I made a few bad calls that didn’t help, and we gotta have that same sense of urgency even though we won. We’ll enjoy this for a little while, but we’re going to have to come back down to earth,” he said.

Hebert, however, pivoted to the galvanizing impact of the win. “On the bright side, when you win games like this, your team starts feeling like nothing can keep us down,” he said.

The Wildcats came out fast and furious on both ends to start the game, leaving the Hounds scrambling for answers. A spread offense featuring five wide receivers gave the Hounds fits. McCulley was doing his best (Baltimore Ravens quarterback) Lamar Jackson impersonation, completing 5 out of 5 passes for 46 yards and converting a third and 11 with his feet. Senior running back Bishr Jones easily punched in a touchdown from 6 yards out, and the Wildcats gained a 7-0 lead. Osborne then underthrew a go route on the right sideline, and was intercepted by junior Armahn Hillman. By the end of the first quarter, the Hounds had been outgained 96-21.

“They did a nice job with their gameplan, and we probably gave them what they expected to get. It was some great coaching on their part, and maybe some conservative thinking on my part. I wanted to see if they could execute and show the things they could do, because we had seen them turn the ball over a lot,” Hebert said. “They didn’t do that though. They were precise and they knew where they wanted to go, and sometimes that happens.”

The second quarter wasn’t much better. After a crisp slant route to senior wide receiver Zach Gish set up the Hounds at the Lawrence North 35, Osborne threw it behind Gish in an effort to repeat the play. The ball was batted into the air, and the Wildcats snatched away the interception. By this time, however, the Hounds defense had stiffened behind the efforts of senior Garrett Sharp and junior Tamarris Springfield, who had combined for 12 tackles by this point the in the game. They forced a three-and-out, before thwarting another threatening drive that reached the Carmel 30 before stalling out with 2 minutes to go in the half.

The Wildcats, however, got the ball back at midfield with 50.3 seconds left, leaving plenty of time for some more McCulley magic. The first play featured an inch-perfect deep ball up the left sideline that sophomore wide receiver Omar Cooper dropped at the 5 yard line. No matter. McCulley threw a quick out for 7 yards then scrambled for 10 yards to the Carmel 38. With 8 seconds left, McCulley rolled left and fired a sideline strike to a wide open Cooper, who tiptoed out of bounds to set up a 41 yard field goal at the buzzer.

Down 10-0 and outgained 186-47, it was the Hounds’ turn to come out of the blocks on fire to start the second half. On the first play, Osborne fooled the entire defense by flipping a shovel pass to junior wide receiver Colton Parker, who streaked up the left sideline for a 20 yard gain. After an 11 yard Downing carry, Osborne floated a beautiful pass over the top of the defense to senior wide receiver Aidan Ellison to put the Hounds in the red zone. Downing then broke out a nifty spin move to score from 7 yards out to make it a one-possession game.

“I’m proud of our guys. This drive showed what we’re capable of when we have that urgency and when we’re all on the same page,” Hebert said. “It was our fire. Our guys were angry and dissatisfied and really determined to do something about it.”

Then, the Wildcats gifted the Hounds a golden opportunity when a routine fourth down snap sailed over the punter’s head and rolled out of bounds at the Lawrence North 6. A holding penalty nullified a Downing touchdown, however, and the Hounds were lucky to escape with a field goal when the Wildcats dropped an errant Osborne pass.

With momentum wearing a yellow helmet, Zach White, third-string running back and junior, busted out a monstrous 36 yard carry up the middle to put the Hounds in scoring range again. This time, however, Osborne fumbled a snap on fourth and 1 from the Lawrence North 6, turning the ball over on downs. The poor field position, however, nearly led to a safety as junior defensive lineman Scott Hudson applied heavy pressure on McCulley. Senior linebacker Ty Wise flew across the field to contain McCulley, and the Hounds received a short punt at the Lawrence North 30 early in the fourth quarter.

The Hounds took full advantage of the opportunity. Osborne found Gish over the top for 29 yards, and White dove in from a yard out to give the Hounds an improbable lead.

McCulley was not done yet. He scrambled for 20 yards and slung out a pair of passes for another 16. Then, the play of the game: At the Carmel 40, three defenders enveloped McCulley on the left sideline. Dead to rights, he wormed out from the sack and sprinted all the way to the other sideline before turning upfield for a 6 yard gain, leaving the crowd stunned in disbelief. While this drive fizzled out, the Wildcats made no mistake on the next one. McCulley pirouetted through the defense for a pair of 16 yard scrambles before finding Cooper on the left sideline, who spun off Springfield to tie the game with 1 minute to spare. Osborne led the team to midfield, but was sacked with 16 seconds to go, leading to Carmel’s first overtime game of the year.

As Bon Jovi blared over the speakers, the crowd finally woke up from a torpor, and created a terrifying wall of sound along the north end zone. The Wildcats could only muster a field goal, setting the stage for Osborne’s walk-off finish.

“One of these days, he’s going to go down as one of the best that’s ever played here,” Hebert said.

NEXT WEEK

The Hounds face North Central (3-2) in the Homecoming game aiming to extend their four game winning streak. Under Hebert, the Hounds have never lost a homecoming game.

EXTRA POINTS

Springfield, an injury replacement for senior cornerback Jakob Paris, led the team with 12 tackles. Osborne went 3/8 for 29 yards and 2 INTs in the first half before going 6/9 for 100 yards in the second half, along with the touchdown run.

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