A stirring comeback and a dramatic finish made for a memorable game between undefeated Miller Place and host Kings Park Saturday.
This was a too-bad-someone-had-to-lose classic that seemed headed for overtime right to the end.
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Despite falling behind by 21 points, Miller Place prevailed, 28-27, as Kings Park failed to score on a two-point conversion after drawing to within a point with 7.5 seconds remaining.
"It was a little scary," said Miller Place tight end Cody McPartland, who had a big hand in his team's offense by scoring the Panthers' first touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Ryan Gray late in the third quarter, then returning an interception 10 yards for a touchdown in the fourth to make it a one possession game.
McPartland, who also plays defensive end, had a good view of the game's deciding play, which ensued after Brett Osman's second rushing touchdown had given Miller Place a 28-21 advantage with 1:57 left in the game. That completed a 21-point fourth quarter, but it might not have been enough.
Starting on its own 44-yard line, Kings Park drove down to the one-yard line and scored on quarterback Joe Guercio's dash into the end zone. All that separated the two unbeaten teams was a single point.
Kings Park coach Mark O'Brien went for the victory. "Going for the win," he said afterward. "I don't play for the tie. We're going to be aggressive and we're going to try for it. So, that's what we did."
The ball went to Andrew Winwood, who tried to dive into the end zone on the far left side. The pylon shook, the referees huddled, but they decided the ball landed just short of crossing the white line.
"I give them a lot of credit," McPartland said of the Kingsmen's attempt. "But our defense is tough down at the goal line. It is where we're at our best. I saw our D-backs come in and stop him short."
O'Brien had no regrets, saying, "We didn't make the play, that's how it ended."
Miller Place coach Ron Petrie admired O'Brien's gutsy call. "He had the momentum, he had just pushed the ball down the field 65 yards in less that two minutes," Petrie said. "When we scored to make it 20-21, I considered going for two; I wasn't sure that we were going to get a stop defensively."
A 21-0 halftime lead, keyed by a pair of rushing touchdowns by Tom Milich, did not lull Kings Park into thinking it could relax.
"Too much game left," O'Brien said. "You don't win a game in the first half, in my opinion. You win it in the second half. We knew they were going to come out and fight. We got to answer and we didn't do that right away in the second half. It's something we have to work on and correct. So, it was a good job by them."