ACTON - It's not often a botched snap actually helps your cause. But in Bishop Feehan's case, it led to a 2-point conversion that turned out to be the difference in a 23-21 win over Mansfield in the Division 2 EMass semifinals yesterday.
Bishop Feehan (9-2-1) jumped on the back of senior running back Nicholas Schwieger and scored 23 consecutive points after falling behind, 14-0, in the first half. Mansfield (10-2) used a 12-play, two-minute drive to cut it to 23-21 with just 29 seconds left in the game. But Mark Gilson's 8-yard touchdown pass to David Westhaver, combined with the extra point, wasn't quite enough.
Bishop Feehan recovered the onside kick, clinching a berth in Saturday's Division 2 Super Bowl.
"Nobody thought we could do it," said Schwieger.
Schwieger's third rushing touchdown gave Bishop Feehan a 21-14 lead with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. He was the holder on the extra-point attempt, but a bad snap made for a broken play.
"It was kind of a high snap," he said. "I just didn't think I'd be able to get the ball down, so my first instinct was to run. I spun behind me and I made a 'Green' call, which is a broken play, and I saw one of my wingbacks had broken free.
"I had a guy right in my face, so I just heaved it up there, and my boy came down with it."
His boy, as Schwieger called him, was junior Chris Taylor, who came down with the cross-field prayer after it was tipped by Mansfield defender Kristen Rogers.
Schwieger ran for 96 yards on 27 carries. His 76 yards and two touchdowns in the second half were instrumental in the win.
"Without horses, you can't run the race," said Bishop Feehan coach Tony Wood. "Nick is a phenomenal competitor. He doesn't go down with the first tackler, and he just makes plays.
"There were a couple of times I turned around and thought he was tackled, but he was still running. That's just Nick being Nick."
"We believed, and our line believed," said Schwieger. "All the credit goes to them. They helped me find some holes, and it just went from there."
The turning point came when Mansfield running back Powell Simpson fumbled inside his 30 on his team's second play of the second half. Eight plays later, Schwieger pounded it into the end zone on third and goal, and the extra point gave Bishop Feehan a 15-14 lead.
Junior Mathew Boulter intercepted a Gilson pass on the next possession, leading to Bishop Feehan's decisive score.
"[Turnovers] are the biggest stat in football at any level," said Wood. "They were just at opportune times."
Mansfield jumped to a 14-0 lead by scoring on its first two possessions. All three of Gilson's first-half completions were to Simpson, for a combined 71 yards. But it was senior running back Michael Morrill who finished the first two drives with spectacular touchdown runs.
Morrill capped an eight-play, four-minute opening drive with a 14-yard run that included a vicious cutback to the inside. His second touchdown came on a 26-yard run just 1:40 into the second quarter. Mansfield went for it on fourth and 1, and Morrill cut it up the middle for the score. He finished the game with 73 yards on eight carries.
Bishop Feehan went into the half trailing, 14-8, after Mansfield's Curtis Graham missed on a 42-yard field goal attempt with 1:08 to play.
Schwieger scored his first touchdown with 3:47 remaining in the second quarter, a 2-yard run on fourth and goal. He also took a direct snap and ran into the end zone untouched for the 2-point conversion.
"At halftime, we just said, 'Let's D up,' because they were doing whatever they wanted," said Schwieger. "This was our game. We believed that we could do this."