It remains theoretically possible that the eventual Greater Metro Conference Offensive Back of the Year did not spend time on the field at Brookfield Central on Friday.
But it's pretty unlikely. The only question is whether that player is Jason Meichtry of Brookfield Central or Nick Patterson of Sussex Hamilton. It appears only injury can slow either one.
The Central quarterback was electric with his feet, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns, helping his team to a 56-38 win in a shootout. Thanks to Patterson, a big-play machine who racked up 222 yards and three touchdowns, Central had to sweat it out, as the Chargers rattled off 21 consecutive points in the third quarter to turn a borderline blowout into a one-score game.
The Chargers scored one play after Patterson was forced to leave the game in the third quarter after sustaining a dislocated elbow to make it 42-38, a blow that nonetheless short-circuited Hamilton's comeback attempt. The Lancers hauled in five turnovers en route to victory in the offensive spectacle.
"As dumb as it sounds, and I'm not just saying this because of the score ... At halftime, I said to our offensive staff: We're going to need 56 (points) to win this game," said Central offensive coordinator Joe Koch. "It just felt that way. You kind of felt that No. 4 (Patterson) was so dangerous. I wasn't comfortable until we got there."
Patterson proved it when he took the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards to the end zone for a touchdown -- but the play was called back by a block in the back penalty well downfield.
Forced instead to start on the Central 25, Hamilton eventually turned the ball over on downs, and Central surged downfield to take a 42-17 lead on the heels of Marcus Crum's 17-yard scamper.
What could have been a demoralizing turn of events instead seemed to open the floodgates for Hamilton. Patterson went for 51 yards, and brother Drew Patterson delivered a 28-yard run for a score one play after the Chargers recovered a fumbled kickoff.
On the next possession, Nick Patterson incurred his injury deep in Central territory. Though backup quarterback Mark Gryszkiewicz found J.J. Flor for a touchdown immediately thereafter to make it 42-38 – a third score in just more than 5 minutes of football – Patterson was done for the night.
"He's the best running back in the conference, I can tell you that right now," Hamilton coach John Damato said. "To lose probably the player of the year in the conference, that was tough. You lose your quarterback (Matt Judson), your free safety (Aaron Mushall) ... a lot of adversity we had to endure, and when it was 42-38, we felt pretty good about our chances."
Central was again forced to punt on the first play of the third quarter, but when Nic Veling pounced on a ball that bounced off Hamilton's return man, Central regained the momentum. Meichtry converted on a fourth down, and DeMario Harris capped the brief drive with a touchdown run.
Harris finished with 75 yards and two touchdowns.
"It felt like a track meet," said Central coach Jamie Meulemans. "Our offense just stepped up great tonight."
Meichtry did throw a late interception but has come a long way from the six-interception outing of Week 1 against Racine Park.
"It's a whole new system, and he's starting to get it a little bit," Koch said. "The poor kid has been through three different offensive systems in three years, so he's starting now to understand the offense. Sometimes he tries to be too perfect ... As dumb as it sounds, I'm not happy yet with our offense. We had too many miscues and missed opportunities."
Central made the most of the opportunities the defense provided. The Lancers converted one fumble recovery into a touchdown drive, and on the first play after kickoff, Central had another score when Austin Vanark knocked the ball away and Chris DuBois picked it up and ran it to the end zone.
After DJ Ley's diving interception on the next series, Harris scored his first touchdown to make it 27-7, Brookfield Central.
One play after the Chargers lost Judson for the game with an apparent ankle injury, Patterson surged 55 yards to make it 27-14, but Craig Jordan's 37-yard run to the goal line preceded another Meichtry touchdown and helped to make it 35-17 at halftime.
"He's a tough kid, and he wants to win so bad," Koch said of Meichtry. "Physically, he's a big strong kid that can run. You can see the potential there. We're going to go as far as Jason takes us."
Both teams left the game with 3-1 overall records, with Central owning the 2-0 ledger in Greater Metro Conference play.
"I don't want to take anything away from Brookfield Central; (Meichtry) is the best I've seen all year," Damato said. "You can see they preach turnovers."