As the Cathedral Fighting Irish lined up for fourth and inches against the Ben Davis Giants with the game on the line, one could almost hear Al Pacino's famous speech from the football movie "Any Given Sunday".
"You find out life's this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don't quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don't quite catch it. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that's gonna make the difference between winning and losing!"
Ben Davis Senior Anthony Stella wanted those inches more then anybody else Saturday night at the Peyback Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium. As Cathedral snapped the ball for the final play of the game, Stella wrapped around the corner of the offensive line to solo tackle Fighting Irish Junior Gino Gillum, securing the Giants (1-0) a 24-21 overtime classic victory.
"Our defense, we are all just one," said Stella, talking about the Giants squad that kept Cathedral out of the end zone in overtime. "We all play together, live together, and just breathe together. When every anybody steps up, great things happen."
At first glance, it almost seemed as if it was a given the Fighting Irish were going to score a touchdown to win the game. The Irish rushed down to the two-yard line on the first play of overtime, but a controversial second down almost ended Cathedral's night early. On a quarterback keeper, it looked as if Cathedral Senior quarterback Corey Babb had fumbled the ball over to the Giants, but the refs ruled that Babb was on the ground. On the very next play, the Giants were called for an encroachment penalty, moving Fighting Irish even closer to the goal.
Two plays, two stops, and a Ben Davis Giants victory ensued.
"When the defense had to they bowed up," said Ben Davis Head Coach Mike Kirschner.
"And that's what the Ben Davis tradition has been built on, just like their tradition. It's no different for them, it's the same for them. So we kind of bowed up. You get third and goal from half the foot line, and you jump offsides and they give them three more inches, then we stop them. I'm sure there might have been a fumble (on second down), we didn't get the call, but it doesn't make a difference. We stop them on third down, they go for it, and I would have done the same thing. We just bowed up, and it's a great win for the trials and tribulations they go through every single day."
Kirschner and the Giants received the ball at the beginning of the overtime, and faced a similar dilemma as Cathedral did on their possession. With the ball on the three yard-line though, Kirschner said that half of his staff was ready to go for the touchdown, half of his staff wanted to kick the field goal, so he made the executive decision to become to fifty-first percentile to push the Giants in favor of kicking a field goal.
Cathedral Head Coach Rick Streiff believes the team was too close to make the similar decision.
"We were two inches away," said Streiff. "We have to have enough intestinal fortitude to get an inch. And in a regular season game, you make those things happen now so that hopefully you feed off of it later."
Though the game came down to a nail-biting finish in the end, the first quarter wasn't so kind to both squads. After Cathedral fumbled the opening kick-off, Ben Davis Senior Matt Brock threw an interception in his very first pass as a varsity quarterback. Then to make matters worse, Brock fumbled the ball on the Giants second possession, and the team fell back 7-0 after Babb completed a touchdown pass to Cathedral Senior Antony Cosaro with 5:43 in the first.
But as the new leader of the Giants squad, Brock knew he couldn't let his teammates feed off the negative energy of his struggles.
"The next play," said Brock about his thoughts after his slow start. "The next play, that is my mentality. As a quarterback I have to have the attitude where I'm going to keep leading me team. If I put my head down, then they are going to put their heads down. And we never did that, and I'm proud of my guys for that."
On the very next possession Brock connected with Giants receiver Caleb Cornett for a 53-yard pass, and rushed for a combined 27 yards, his final scramble leading him into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7. Momentum continued to swing into the Giants favor when Lamont Osborne (52 yards) scored a touchdown from seven yards out to put Ben Davis up 14-7 heading into the second half.
But after losing 14 yards on a fourth and four attempt in the third, Cathedral gained incredible field position at the Giants 27-yard line. There Babb (111 yards, three touchdowns) found Corsaro once again for his second touchdown of the day, tying the game 14-14 with 9:05 on the clock.
That's when the Giants defense stepped up big for the first of many times in the contest. After Giants running back Chris Mcgee fumbled the ball at the Giants 30, Ben Davis' Drew Craig sacked Babb on a third and seven that forced an eleven yard loss. Cathedral missed the following field goal, and Brock marched the Giants right down the field as if he was Michael Vick under the helm. Brock led a drive going 4-4 passing, rushed for 18 yards, and then connected with Lamont Osborn on a 13-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-14.
"Whatever punishment the coaches dish out, the punishment the other teams dish out, he just keeps rolling along and keeps on playing," said Kirschner about Brock. "That third quarter drive where he sort of got himself going and throwing that ball down the field, that was a thing of beauty. That's what he's capable of doing, we just have to get more consistency from him."
Cathedral wouldn't stay down for long though, and with 7:58 in the fourth quarter Babb connected with Alec Bitar for a perfect thread the needle pass that saw Bitar get crushed by a Giants defender, but Bitar held on the ball for a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21.
Both the Giants and Irish had opportunities to score on the following two possessions, but costly interceptions by the Giants Na'Shawn Lewis and Cathedral's Stu Stanley put the ball in Cathedral's hands with 2:04 on the play clock. Cathedral then ran out the clock to :05 seconds left, where Jack Fleck attempted a 52-yard field goal that would have won the game at the end of regulation.
And from almost every seat in the house, the ball looked as if it was going through the uprights. But instead destiny wasn't in the Irish's sights, and the ball landed just short and to the right to force overtime.
Then in overtime Giants Senior Jordan Holder put Ben Davis on top 24-21, and the victory that could potentially ignite the return of the tradition of Ben Davis football occurred.
"We feel that we don't make statements," said Brock. "That we have to take it one game at a time. We want to earn the respect, all we want is respect. The tradition is still going on, the Ben Davis tradition is back."