A pair of field goal attempts in double overtime were all that separated Marquette University High School from Brookfield Central in a 31-28 thriller for the ages in the Greater Metro Conference on Friday.
Marquette chipped in a 15-yarder on the first possession of double overtime, while Central - driven backward by an inadvertently fumbled pitch – couldn’t connect on a 40-yarder.
“This is going to be like the old Black & Blue division in the NFC,” said Marquette coach Jeff Mazurzak. “The Greater Metro is tough every week. Sussex was tough on both of us. It’s going to be a rough road from here on out for everyone.”
The 31-28 advantage was the Hilltoppers’ first lead of the game.
“In regulation we were struggling to score,” Mazurzak said. “But we knew our defense could hang. Our offense came alive just in time. We found a way to win. We were lucky. That’s a great team over there. They fight hard.”
The first half was mostly a matchup of Central’s powerful run game versus Marquette’s aerial attack.
Using the potent combination of senior Craig Jordan and sophomore DeMario Harris, the Lancers piled up 50 yards on 11 carries. Senior quarterback Jason Meichtry dodged, scrambled and sprinted for another 70 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also threw for 80 yards and kicked two extra points.
The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, could only muster five yards rushing on six carries, and were forced to rely on the arm of senior quarterback Joe Greif - who went 5 of 12 for 62 yards – and a stalwart opportunistic defense, which scored the team’s only first half points on a 55-yard fumble recovery and score by senior Ryan Donald.
Central grabbed the second half’s first momentum swing with an interception by senior lineman Rocky Johnson and 20-yard return to Marquette’s 11-yard line. Meichtry ran for an 11-yard keeper on the very next play, picking his way through traffic and diving forward into the endzone with the ball outstretched in one hand.
The game took a turn for the dramatic with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Central, leading 14-7, went on a six-play three-minute drive, culminating in a 40-yard high-arcing bomb by Meichtry down the left sideline that senior Isaiah Sydnor hauled in at the 15 and took to the end zone.
The ensuing line drive kickoff stuck in the chest of a Marquette special teams player at midfield, and the Hilltoppers similarly scored in six plays.
After picking up a first down on a 15-yard completion to senior Alex Ash, Marquette dug deep into its playbook. Greif faked a handoff to the left, then pitched back to Ash on his right. The tight end looked upfield and tossed a flea-flicker pass 40 yards to Matt Misiewicz. The 6-4 senior easily outjumped the defensive back. Three runs later, junior running back Jordan McClain was standing in the end zone.
“Miskiewicz is so athletic,” Greif said. “Ash, too. He has huge hands and can reel in anything. I’m lucky to have both to throw to, with an offensive line that gave me time and kept me safe.”
Both teams moved the ball throughout the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert the drives to points.
With the game on the line, Marquette took over on its own 20 with just 3:22 remaining, facing a 21-14 deficit.
Greif led the team downfield with a trio of big passes: a 10-yard strike to junior Tom Siwula, a 40-yard slant that senior William Crawford tipped to himself, and a 16-yard touchdown jumpball that Misiewicz again plucked from a defensive back’s grasp.
With the score knotted at 21-21, both teams punted their way out of regulation.
Overtime rules give both teams 1st downs at the opposition's 25. Central went on offense first, assembling a dramatic, heart-pounding eight-play attack that featured three penalties, two fourth down attempts and a fumble, but resulted in a 28-21 lead.
On the very next play, Greif faked into the line, then tossed a soft lob into the gut of a wide-open Ash in the end zone.
“We knew they were sitting on the pass,” Greif said. “That’s why we went play action, to suck ‘em in.”
In double overtime, Greif hit Crawford for a 15-yard completion and moved his way to the goalline on a quarterback keeper, but the Central defense stiffened. Greif was tossed for a loss in the backfield, then run out of bounds while looking for an open receiver. The 15-yard field goal gave the Hilltoppers a 31-28 lead.
“They’re a great football team, and it was a great battle tonight,” said Central coach Jamie Meulemans. “I thought our defense – guys like Steven Ambrookian, Chikwe Obasih, Adam Miller - played great, and our offense had its moments.”
“I’m just proud of these kids. They played their hearts out in every aspect of the game,” he said. “I know we didn’t come out on top, but I told our boys to keep their heads up. It was just a great battle.”