GARDEN PLAIN — Momentum shifts are nothing new for Garden Plain's football team. The Owls have had more than their fair share in recent weeks, as they pulled out must-win games in dramatic fashion.
Saturday was no different, as the Owls rallied to defeat visiting Collegiate 18-15 in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. Garden Plain will play host to the winner of Saturday night's Phillipsburg-Beloit game this week in the quarterfinals.
"We kind of pride ourselves on being able to adjust to momentum swings," said Garden Plain acting coach Greg Gegen, whose team won two district games by a combined 13 points and lost the third by seven. "We've been in several games where there were momentum shifts. We continue to battle, take advantage of breaks and continue to slug it out until it's over."
Senior Joey Capul agreed.
"Our guys never give up," said Capul, who had 139 rushing yards. "It shows right now that we never give up.... You know, we had a great district this year, and they definitely made us better."
That district was comprised of four teams that had a combined one loss heading into the season's final three games.
"It helps to play these tight ballgames," Gegen said. "Our guys in the locker room at halftime, it's very business-like, very professional. They just play football."
Collegiate, which trailed 12-6 at the half, took its first lead late in the third quarter when Curtis Bent scored from one yard two plays after quarterback Markus Phox went 78 yards on a running play. Phox finished with a game-high 140 yards.
"It's a matter of, if you miss him, he's gone," Gegen said of Phox. "We missed him, and he was gone. Our players didn't panic. They knew it was four quarters. Play hard for four quarters, and we'll see where we are at the end."
Collegiate, which had benefited from a safety on an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone midway through the third quarter, led 15-12 with 44 seconds remaining in the period.
Spartans coach Bill Messamore thought his team had control at that point.
But Garden Plain made three crucial plays in the game's final 6:33.
The first came when Phox threw down the right side of the field into double coverage and was intercepted by Capul. Four plays later, after starting at the Collegiate 36, Garden Plain quarterback Lucas Jennings found a wide-open Josh Becker for a 31-yard touchdown to retake the lead at 18-15.
"They called my number, tight-end dump," Becker said. "I saw the safety go over, and Lucas just gave me a perfect pass. I had to look it in and score."
Collegiate got to the Garden Plain 47 and, facing a fourth-and-4, Phox rolled right and was chased by Cale Walsh. Phox threw down the right side again, and this time it was Becker, who leaped into the air and broke up the pass.
"He had great coverage on the kid," Gegen said of Becker's play with 1:06 remaining. "He went up at the high point. I think we had a little pressure on the quarterback, so it's a combination of good pressure and good coverage."
It was a disappointing finish for Collegiate (8-3), which had hopes of winning another 3A title.
"These kind of games come down to one big play," Messamore said. "They made it, we didn't make it.
"I'm sorry we couldn't do more with this team. They're a really good team, but Garden Plain deserved the win."
Collegiate (8-3) 0 6 9 0 — 15 Garden Plain (10-1) 6 6 0 6 — 18
GP—Jennings 4 run (missed kick)
C—Phox 17 run (missed kick)
GP—Arnold 6 pass from Doyle (pass failed)
C—Safety, Garden Plain intentional grounding in end zone
C—Bent 1 run (Short kick)
GP—Becker 31 pass from Jennings (run failed)
Rushing—Collegiate, Phox 22-140, Franklin 9-26, Bent 3-7. Garden Plain, Capul 25-139, Doyle 7-19, Clark 11-16, Jennings 8-15.
Passing—Collegiate, Phox 3-13-31-1. Garden Plain, Jennings 3-8-50-0, Doyle 1-1-6-0.
Receiving—Collegiate, Franklin 2-20 ,Clark 1-11. Garden Plain, Becker 1-31, Arnold 2-14, Clark 1-11.