In all his years of playing and coaching football, Sheffield first-year head coach Dave Fitch has "never been happier."
"In all the years of coaching and playing, I've never seen anything quite like this," said Fitch, whose Wolverines outlasted Coudersport, 31-30, in their Homecoming game on Saturday at Wolverine Mountain - on a last-minute touchdown pass from the back-up sophomore quarterback.
Three plays prior to the touchdown pass came the play of the season for the Wolverines.
Times Observer photo by Jon Sitler
Sheffield’s Brendan Winslow hauls in a 55-yard double-pass play from Shequan Wright late in the fourth quarter on fourth down and 19 yards to go. The Wolverines would go on to win 31-30 on a late-minute pass from Adam Higby to Winslow, who had 102 receiving yards in the Homecoming win.
Trailing 30-25 with less than a minute to go, Sheffield faced fourth down and 19 yards to go from its own 33-yard line. Sheffield had been riding the hot hand of sophomore back-up quarterback Adam Higby for two scores in the second half, but he'd been sacked for a nine-yard loss on first down. Two incomplete passes made it fourth down with the game on the line.
Instead of a Hail Mary, Higby lateraled to his right to receiver, and the game's starting quarterback, Shequan Wright for a double-pass down the right sideline.
"I just jumped up over the kid and caught it," said Brendan Winslow, for a 55-yard gain and first down at the Coudersport 12-yard line.
With time winding down, Higby hit Wright for an eight-yard gain to the Coudy-4.
Wright's height made him Higby's first option, and brought a pass interference call on the first attempt at a game-winning touchdown.
"Out of the backfield, I noticed (Winslow) peel out to my right," said Higby, who hit him in stride for a two-yard go-ahead score in the corner with 22 seconds to go.
Through the hysteria, Sheffield tried to kick the extra point to go ahead by two, and missed, instead of going for two for a three-point lead.
Coudersport's beast of a running back, Mitch Freeman, got off balance lunging for the subsequent kickoff and the ball got by him. Winslow was all over the place in the last minute of the game, and recovered the ball for Sheffield without giving the Falcons a last chance.
"It means a lot, especially for Homecoming," said Winslow, who also had a first-half interception. "It was for him."
The "him" Winslow was referring to is senior teammate Dylan Reynolds, who suffered an injury and left the field by ambulance in the first half on Saturday.
"I knew we had to have this game," said Higby, who Winslow introduced as "our J.V. quarterback."
"I knew that we had to win for the seniors," said Higby.
As good as this game was, Sheffield played a doozy with Coudersport last year, losing 7-6 in overtime. Ironically, there was a pass interference call against Sheffield in the same end zone at Sheffield High School that led to Coudy's win.
This time the breaks went to the Wolverines.
"For a sophomore, (Higby) shows such great poise back there," said Fitch. "If I can get him four or five series (a game), that's a winning situation. For him to go out today and throw three touchdowns, I don't know what to say; not to sound cliche, it's amazing."
Wright wasn't too shabby at quarterback. The senior led Sheffield on two first-quarter scoring drives. The first of the game was a 53-yard drive ending in a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Fitzgerald. The point-after kick was blocked.
Coudy plowed down the field 62 yards and took an 8-6 lead on Ethan Hite's 14-yard touchdown pass to Freeman and Hite's two-point conversion.
Wright's second touchdown pass came on a 38-yard catch-and-run by Reynolds late in the first quarter.
Wright threw for 117 yards in the half, but Freeman continued to eat up ground for Coudersport and the Falcons led 16-12 at the break. Freeman scored on a one-yard plunge in the second quarter. Hite's two-point conversion upped the lead to four points.
Both defenses picked it up in the third, as Coudy's Patrick Bollhurst ran back a Wright interception for a 22-12 lead. Sheffield stopped the two-point try, and stopped a couple more drives in the quarter. Ken Early and Dylan McNeal recovered fumbles for Sheffield.
Enter Higby, who started a drive with two incompletions before a long scoring strike. The 6-foot-2 Wright - now at receiver - outleaped a Coudy defender near the Sheffield sideline and broke a couple tackles for a 73-yard touchdown. This time Wright kicked in the extra-point try and Sheffield trailed by three points.
In the fourth, McNeal made a nice catch down the right sideline for 27 yards. Then Higby hit Wright again for a four-yard TD pass and 25-22 Sheffield lead.
The crowd grew antsy as Coudersport, specifically Freeman, plodded its way down the field. Run after run ended when Hite hit Freeman out of the backfield and Freeman raced for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:36 left. Hite's two-point run made it 30-25.
Coudy pooch-kicked to Sheffield's 42 and Higby stayed in at quarterback. He was sacked for a nine-yard loss and threw two incompletions to set up fourth down and 19 yards to go.
"That (double-pass) play we just put in on Thursday (and) ran it at practice," said Fitch. "That's a prayer answered."
The sophomore Higby still had to keep his composure long enough to complete the comeback.
Ironically, Higby entered the third quarter wearing the same uniform number 3 that Reynolds had been wearing in the first half.
"I can't tell you the last come-from-behind victory Sheffield has had with a minute-twenty on the clock," said Fitch.
Sheffield had not beaten Coudersport since 1973 - including losing 25 straight games since 1987.
Higby finished 8-of-14 for 131 yards, all in the second half, with three touchdowns and zero turnovers. Making big plays all game, Wright finished 11-of-21 for 200 yards with two TDs, one interception and one fumble lost; add in three receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns as a wideout.
Sheffield couldn't get anything going on the ground with just 13 carries for negative yardage. The Wolverines made up for it with the big plays through the air, and Winslow finished with six catches for 102 yards.
With two straight dramatic one-point victories, Sheffield is 2-3 overall and 2-0 against Allegheny Mountain League North opponents.
Coudersport is 1-4, despite to Herculean effort from Freeman, who had 30 carries for 122 yards, and five catches for 70 yards.
Coudersport - Sheffield Stats
S - Tyler Fitzgerald 14 pass from Shequan Wright (Kick blocked), 10:01
C - Mitch Freeman 14 pass from Ethan Hite (Hite 2-point run), 6:07
S - Dylan Reynolds 38 pass from Wright (2-point pass fails), 2:31
C - Freeman 1 run (Nevada Waterman 2-point pass from Hite), 8:59
C - Patrick Bollhurst 26 interception return (2-point run fails), 6:23
S - Wright 73 pass from Adam Higby (Wright PAT kick), 5:50
S - Wright 4 pass from Higby (Kick fails), 7:14
C - Freeman 25 pass from Hite (Hite 2-point run), 1:36
S - Brendan Winslow 2 pass from Higby (Kick fails), :22
RUSHING- C - Freeman 30-122, 1 TD, Caden Whitman 12-38, Hite 7-14, Alex Hershey 4-28; S - Wright 3-7, Brandon Johnston 5-4, Reynolds 3-2, Higby 2-(-15).
PASSING- C - Hite 10-of-18 for 154 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; S - Wright 11-of-21 for 200 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, Higby 8-of-14 for 131 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT.
RECEIVING -- C - Freeman 5-70, 2 TD, Hershey 3-59, Whitman 1-16, Clayton Wilson 1-9; S - Winslow 6-102, 1 TD, Fitzgerald 5-51, 1 TD, Wright 3-85, 2 TD, Reynolds 2-53, 1 TD, Dylan McNeal 1-27, Mister Ussery 1-8, Johnston 1-6.