TONTOGANY - In a game that more than exceeded the hype, Otsego and Eastwood duked it out in a slugfest where both teams refused to blink.
It took five exhilarating overtimes before the Knights scored the final blow to outlast the Eagles 29-26. If it were a college football game it would have been an "Instant Classic" as the teams combined to score 41 points in five extra sessions.
Otsego running back Cody Donald took a pitch from backup quarterback Andy Cocke and found tight end Eric Zuhlsdorf wide open for the winning touchdown. The halfback pass put an end to the 3 1/2-hour prize fight.
"I'm very tickled," said Otsego coach Dan Cocke. "This ranks right up there with the top games, especially in this stadium."
In conservative regulation play, the teams managed to score only seven points apiece and threw only nine times.
But in overtime the team's kickers matched field goals three times and the unwavering squads matched touchdowns once.
"I've never been involved in anything like this," said Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford. "I'm tremendously proud of our guys. They played their hearts out.
"It's a cliche to say it's a shame that someone has to lose in a game like this, but it's true tonight," he said. "They just made one more play at the end."
The Knights played nearly all of the game without senior quarterback Matt Mills, who went down with a leg injury early in the first quarter. Otsego (6-0, 3-0) also turned the ball over three times but still managed to gain the early lead in the Suburban Lakes League race over the defending champion Eagles (4-2, 2-1).
"This tells you a lot about the type of football team we have," Cocke said.
With the score tied at 7, Eastwood kicker Jack Schemenauer booted a 23-yard field goal. Otsego kicker Brent Svanberg matched Schemenauer with a 20-yarder to make it 10-10 after the first overtime session.
The kickers then matched field goals again in the second overtime. Svanberg hit a 28-yarder and Schemenauer was good from 30 yards out.
"The kickers were unbelievable," Cocke said "Those aren't automatic. I thought their kid was gonna miss one."
In the third overtime, Eastwood sophomore running back Jeremy Foster scored on an eight-yard run to give the Eagles a very brief 20-13 advantage.
It took the Knights just one play to tie it back up as junior Justin Henck went 20 yards untouched into the end zone to knot it at 20.
Again the kickers converted field goals in the fourth overtime as Svanberg hit a 31-yarder first for Otsego. Schemenauer then calmly connected on a 33-yarder despite two attempts to ice him with timeouts.
In the fifth overtime, the Knights stopped the Eagles again and Schemenauer kicked a 25-yarder to make it 26-23.
Donald rushed four times to get Otsego to the Eastwood 8. He then took the pitch from Andy Cocke and lofted a pass to Zuhlsdorf to complete the epic battle.
"I knew right when I heard the play that it was gonna work," Zuhlsdorf said. "The safety came up and I went to the corner and they couldn't stop me."
Donald finished with 152 yards on 31 carries. He scored on a 28-yard run and completed the eight-yard TD pass.
"It's a simple football play we run a hundred times in practice," Cocke said. "This was an outstanding football game. Both teams played their hearts out."
Justin Henck rushed for 64 yards and his senior brother Chad rushed for 68.
Foster carried 38 times for 143 yards. Josh Fairbanks had 76 yards on 16 carries for Eastwood.
"Both defenses did a heck of a job," Rutherford said.
Eastwood also only threw six passes, but one was a 19-yard strike from Eric Rutherford to Fairbanks to put the Eagles up 7-0.
Mills went out with 4:23 remaining in the first quarter. Mills threw the ball just once before he was hurt and it was picked off. The Knights only threw five more passes the rest of the game.
"This is my dad's last year and there is nothing better than beating Eastwood for him," said Andy Cocke.
"I knew that last play was going to be money."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.41.41583 -83.73904