CINCINNATI – Moeller appeared headed for a season-opening loss on Friday when the Crusaders had to punt the ball away with 2:30 left, trailing by three.
But the defending Division I champions made a defensive stand, and senior quarterback Gus Ragland threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Chase Pankey in the closing seconds of the Crusaders’ 37-33 win at Nippert Stadium.
“Once the ball got in the air, time completely slowed down,” Pankey said. “Then it just got to my hands, and I caught it.”
Moeller (1-0) was in trouble when the offense went three and out late, as the line couldn’t even keep senior quarterback Gus Ragland upright in order to try to throw the ball. The Crusaders were forced to punt, but still had all three timeouts.
The defense held, and with a minute to go the offense got one more shot. This time the offensive line protected Ragland, and he rallied Moeller past midfield with 20 seconds to go.
The Crusaders were in the lead for much of the second half, but Pike took its first lead with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Brent Lyles.
Lyles kept that drive alive with a 25-yard run after offensive penalties set up a third and 20.
Moeller got on the board when the Red Devils (1-1) snapped the ball out of the back of the end zone while attempting to punt. Pike also had an extra point try blocked by Crusader senior Sam Hubbard after barely squeaking a PAT through earlier in the game.
“We put as much emphasis on special teams as we do offense and defense because it’s going to win you a game, and you better not let it lose you a game, because that’s not good," Moeller head coach John Rodenberg said.
This game was as close in the statistics as it was on the scoreboard as the Red Devils outgained the Crusaders by one yard, 454 to 453.
Moeller racked up most of its yardage on the ground, with Ragland gaining 127 yards and senior running back Dean Meyer gaining an even 100. Both players scored two touchdowns.
Pike threw the ball more, as Lyles had 234 yards through the air, but Moeller held senior Tennessee commit wide receiver Dominique Booth to three catches for 39 yards.
Pike goes back home to host Indianapolis Tech (1-1) next week, while the Crusaders go to Covington Catholic (2-0) – one of Rodenberg’s former teams – next Saturday.