WALTON | The exasperated public address announcer asked the awe-struck crowd to direct its attention to midfield for the presentation of the night’s award.
A piece of metal about the size of a ruler, emblazoned with “REGIONAL CHAMPION,” the thin plate goes on the wood-and-metal sectional trophy’s base.
The thin, somewhat flimsy souvenir does not have much face value and could easily be lost. However, its sentimental value, especially when two teams play five overtimes to get it, well, that’s another story.
The presentation of the “plaque” after Andrean’s Class 2A regional victory over host Lewis Cass on Friday night at Owens Memorial Field was a mere side note to one of the zaniest games in Indiana playoff history.
Glassy-eyed and thoroughly entertained, fans in attendance didn’t have to be reminded where to direct their attention. They were already marveling as the combatants in a 67-66, five-overtime joy ride hugged teammates and opponents like prizefighters in a show of respect for what they had both just accomplished.
Everyone congratulated one another; many struggled to put it in perspective. With a faux castle gateway beyond the end zone for the host Kings’ pre-game introduction, both teams on this night were royalty. Only one got the crown.
It was the highest scoring regional in the 40-year history of playoff football in Indiana, and the 67 and 66 points rank No. 1 and 2 all-time in any regional game ever.
When first-year converted soccer player Matt Anderson kicked the winning PAT -- unlike college football where touchdowns must be followed by two-point conversion attempts starting with the third overtime, prep teams have the option to kick for a win after a TD if the team with the first possession missed its two-point conversion attempt -- the game fell short of the state record of seven overtimes set by West Washington and Brownstown in 1974.
Because overtime periods start with one team on the opposing 10-yard line, the yardage totals weren’t a statistician’s dream/nightmare, but the 124 combined plays took their toll.
“I’m extremely sore right now,” Andrean quarterback Matt DeSomer said after scoring six rushing touchdowns -- four in the overtimes – on the night. DeSomer’s 5-yard TD run tied the game at 66. He also had two two-point conversions in the third and fourth overtimes on a repetitive run play executed to perfection.
His epic statistical night included 28 carries for 185 yards and the six scores. He was 5-for-11 passing with 100 yards and two more scores, both in a 28-0 second quarter that had the 59ers positioned for a blowout before mistakes nearly ruined their night in the second half.
Andrean (11-2), which hosts Fort Wayne Luers this Friday in the Class 2A northern semistate, snapped a four-game regional losing streak, the last three under fifth-year head coach Phil Mason. After the 59ers beat Rensselaer in the Sectional 25 final, an assistant had shouted, “Now let’s get the monkey off this man’s back.”
As his wife Dee eavesdropped cheerfully on the field afterward, Mason said he was unable to process the events fully.
“I’m exhausted; my brain is gone,” he said. “I’m more happy for my family than I am for me.”
This was Andrean’s 15th regional in program history, but the trip to Walton, southeast of Logansport, was its second-longest trip of any previous regional, edged slightly by the 1997 state runner-up team’s jaunt to Lebanon.
The long day Friday included a visit from ESPN radio personality and former NFL veteran John Jurkovic at a pep rally earlier in the day.
Most routes from Lake County to Cass County include signposts for towns such as Georgetown and Dunkirk, names synonymous with epic battles in history.
After the game went to overtime tied at 31, thanks to Anderson’s 37-yard field goal, No. 2 of his one-year career, with 34.4 seconds left, offenses ran wild.
The only resolution to the stalemate would have to be a defensive stop. Andrean’s Ramon Guerrero blocked a potential game-winning PAT kick by Cass with the score tied at 44 in the second overtime, and Dakota Cooper broke up a two-point conversion pass in the back of the end zone after Cass scored in the fifth overtime.
“We knew it would come down to whoever's defense made the best play,” Cooper said. “I was just hoping they’d throw to my side. I saw it come through and punched that ball as hard as I could.”
The much-maligned hero, DeSomer, sported a mustache after the game and appeared to go from mistake-prone boy to playmaking man in one night.
No one expected this nine-act, off-off-off Broadway play, but nerves and self-doubt didn’t get in the way of the game.
“Everyone believed in each other,” DeSomer said. “The whole team knew that we could do it."