After spending the entire night shooting themselves in the foot by having three touchdowns called back on penalties, the Mater Academy Lions saved their best for last.
Trailing McArthur 13-7 with 2:01 left and at their own 17-yard line, the Lions offense, led by quarterback Kaywon Hanna, did it when they had to, driving 83 yards with Hanna hitting LiQundre Gallimore with a 2-yard touchdown pass with just six seconds left.
Brandon Chiquillo drilled the extra point to give Mater a dramatic 14-13 win in a Region 4-7A semifinal contest at Milander Stadium.
The order will be a tall one next Friday for the Lions (11-1) as they will host two-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas at Milander at 7:30 p.m.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“What a crazy finish,” Mater coach Rocco Casullo said. “We had made so many costly mistakes all night, but that last drive shows you the heart of our kids to do that when it had to be done.”
McArthur, making its first postseason appearance since 2008, suffered its first loss of the season, finishing 11-1.
The Mustangs appeared to be in great shape to win it when quarterback Deon Jones hit Jaquan Denson for a 62-yard touchdown pass with 7:04 left in the game, breaking a 7-7 deadlock, but the extra point was wide left, leaving a small door open for the Lions.
After the Mustangs held on downs around midfield with 3:45 left, all they needed was one first down to milk the clock but couldn’t get it and had to punt, setting Mater up for its game-winning drive.
“I’m a senior and was not about to see my high school career end [Friday night] and knew I just had to find a way to get my team down the field,” Hanna said. “This is a big win for us, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of St. Thomas next week.”
After a first quarter filled with nothing more than punts and a battle for field position, Mater Academy got on the board first on the first play of the second quarter when, on third-and-12, quarterback Kaywon Hanna scrambled to his right and found Travon Roberts, who went up in between two Mustang defenders to bring the ball down for a 39-yard touchdown.
McArthur, thanks to a huge third-down conversion, a 31-yard hookup from Deon Jones to Dominick Watt on third-and-17 from its own 13, then drove 80 yards in 10 plays. Jones found big tight end Dimarco Harris, who made a brilliant one-handed catch for an 8-yard touchdown on third-and-goal, tying the score 7-7 with 7:33 left in the second.
It appeared Mater had taken the lead when Jamal Cooney returned the second half kickoff 90 yards for a score but a holding call nullified the return. Later in the drive, Hanna hit Doriscar for a 54-yard catch-and-run play to the McArthur 10. Nope. Holding Mater. One drive later, Roberts broke loose for a 34-yard touchdown run on an end around. Nope. Flag down. Holding Mater.
Said Casullo, who will match up against his old team for the second year in a row in a regional final and hope for a better result than last year’s 60-7 loss; “Some how, some way, we managed to overcome all those penalties (Mater had 15 for 145) and now we’re moving on. Obviously they (St. Thomas) have one of the best teams in the country so clearly this will be a major challenge for us next week to compete but we’ll show up and be ready to go.”