ANDERSON TWP, Ohio - Helped by six turnovers, McNicholas (9-1) treated its fans to a not-pretty but somehow beautiful 28-14 playoff victory over previously unbeaten Urbana (10-1) in a first-round Division IV game Saturday afternoon at Penn Station Stadium.
Tied at 14-14 to begin the second half, McNick got a 55-yard punt from Luke Sulken to end their first possession and pin Urbana at its own 1-yard line. That is when opportunistic Rockets’ senior linebacker Tyler Gumbert snagged an errant pass from Hillclimbers’ quarterback Nathan Mays and returned it 10 yards to give McNick a lead it would never relinquish.
It was the crowning moment of a great game by Gumbert, who also had 12 tackles and a forced fumble.
Watch interview with McNicholas coach Mike Orlando below or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPHEc5uIJKY
Mays came into the game with 90 career regular-season touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions in 30 regular-season starts. The Urbana junior was picked three times by the Rockets and eventually knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter after being hit in the throat by Rockets player’s facemask.
Mays finished the game with 304 yards of total offense (216 passing, 88 rushing) and two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing). Senior Shane Ware concluded a great run as a Hillclimber with 184 all-purpose yards and a fumble recovery.
McNicholas moves on to face reigning state champion Clinton-Massie (10-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kings High School.
The Rockets were able to do what 14 teams before them couldn’t do and that was to keep Ware out of the end zone, ending his streak of 14 consecutive games with at least one touchdown.
The McNicholas depth wore down the Hillclimbers, who dressed fewer than 40 players, and it really showed late in the game. That is when Rockets’ running back Sean Byrne began to assert himself. The senior finished ran for 117 yards on 20 carries with most of his damage after intermission.
Sulken was 10/14 for 143 yards with scoring tosses to Adam Hisch and Kevin Schmidt. The junior quarterback came into the game with only one touchdown pass during the regular season and he also ran for 73 yards. Hisch had career highs of four receptions and 106 yards receiving.