DARLINGTON – With the outcome of the game– and his team’s season– on the line, Cambridge head coach Mike Klingbeil decided to leave the ball in his marquee player’s hands and go for the win.
Right after scoring his fourth touchdown of the day to pull his team within a point, senior running back Andy Resnick stuck a two-point conversion run over the goalline just inside the pylon to lift the visiting Bluejays over the #1-seeded Darlington Redbirds, 44-43, in a thrilling double-overtime WIAA Division 5 Level 1 playoff football game at Martens Field on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Resnick ran for 235 yards and three TDs and caught three passes for 45 yards and another score to help the Bluejays (8-2 overall) spoil the Redbirds’ first-ever opening round home playoff game.
“He was the difference-maker in the game. He is just a fabulous athlete. Any time we were out of position, he had the speed and explosiveness to exploit our defense,” said Darlington head coach Scott Zywicki about Resnick’s stellar performance on Saturday.
Resnick, who came into the game with over 1,700 rushing yards over the first nine games, put Cambridge on top at the start of overtime with a 25-yard scoring jaunt on the first play from scrimmage and Brock DeForest’s extra put the Bluejays ahead 36-29.
Darlington (7-3) answered with a 6-yard TD run by senior Levi Wedig and a PAT by senior Zach McArthur to tie the score again at 36 all.
“I thought about going for two (after Wedig’s score) in all honesty. But, we felt we were starting to wear them down, so the longer the overtime went it favored us,” admitted Zywicki.
The Redbirds took the advantage at the start of the second OT period on senior Tyler Black’s 13-yard TD run. McArthur tacked on the PAT to give the ‘Birds a 43-36 lead.
However, the Bluejays had one last chance with the ball and they had some plays left in them as well.
The ‘Birds put the Jays’ backs to the wall by forcing a fourth-and-12 play from the 13-yard line, but Cambridge quarterback Nic Bowe completed a perfect pass to Chase Jarlsberg for a first down inside the 1.
“He couldn’t have thrown a better ball in a clutch situation than that. It was a perfectly thrown ball where only his kid could catch it and they made the play. That was the game right there. If we stop them, there is no two-point conversion,” Zywicki explained.
Resnick punched it in on the next play to cut the deficit to 43-42, and the senior cashed in his coach’s gutsy gamble by winning the battle to the pylon on the conversion to hand the Bluejays the hard-fought victory.
“Cambridge is a very talented team. They made just a few more plays than we did,” Zywicki said.
Resnick (two yards) and Bowe (five) each ran for a TD and hooked up on a 46-yard scoring strike in the first half to lead the Bluejays out to a 21-15 halftime lead.
Senior fullback Seth Rowe, who ran for 154 yards and three TDs in the game, punched in scores from three and four yards out in the opening half to keep the Redbirds close.
The ‘Birds grabbed a 22-21 advantage late in the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Rowe; and, following an interception by Wedig, McArthur scrambled in from 20 yards out to up the lead to 29-21.
The Bluejays grabbed some of the momentum back with a 70-yard kickoff return. Bowe scored on a sneak from a yard out moments later to grab more momentum, and he teamed with Jack Nett for a two-point conversion to tie the score at 29 all with 8:59 remaining in regulation.
The ‘Birds drove down to the Bluejay 29 with time running down, but the drive stalled sending the game into overtime.
Darlington topped Cambridge on the ground, 325 to 241, but the Jays maintained a 105 to 36 edge through the air.
“Our offensive line played pretty well. We could have put some points on the board, but you have to give Cambridge credit. They hung in there and made us work for everything we got,” stated Zwyicki. “At times, we were our own worst enemy. We made enough mistakes to come up on the short end.”
Mitchell Whalen added 80 yards rushing on 16 carries and three catches for 33 yards.
McArthur ran for 36 yards on six totes, while Black caried five times for 29 yards and Wedig five times for 26 yards for the ‘Birds. All three scored TDs.
Defensively, Rowe led the team with 14 tackles. Wedig added 13 stops with a sack and an interception, and Black was in on 13 tackles as well.
Whalen and Michael Ruf had nine stops apiece, while A.J. Brandt registered a sack.
Darlington teams had won the previous three meetings against the Bluejays– the last happening during the 1994 playoffs, including a 35-34 triple overtime victory over Cambridge the last time they played in Darlington back in 1990.
Saturday’s game marked the final prep game at DHS for seniors Mitchell Whalen, Bo Brunkow, Brandon Hardyman, Zach McArthur, Cedric Flesher, Levi Wedig, Tyler Black, Seth Rowe, Ritchie Ubersox, Christen Ruf, Eli Humphrey and John Sturtz.
“This senior group has been outstanding. This group was really close-knit with the rest of the kids. They were almost like big brothers,” Zywicki said. “They all worked extremely hard in practice. They gave (the coaches) everything they could. Hopefully, the younger kids will see what they did and they will follow their lead.”
And, in all starts with the off-season workouts that are beginning much earlier than the Redbirds’ coaches hoped would begin.
“We’ll see how bad they want to become conference champions and take it further than we did this year. It all depends on the off-season workouts. We have to get stronger,” stated Zywicki.
WIAA DIVISION 5 LEVEL 1
Cambridge… 7 14 0 8 7 8 - 44
Darlington…. 8 7 7 7 7 7 - 43
C – Resnick, 2 run (DeForest kick)
D – Seth Rowe, 3 run (Rowe pass from Mitchell Whalen)
C – Resnick, 46 pass from Bowe (DeForest kick)
D – Rowe, 4 run (Zach McArthur kick)
C – Bowe, 5 run (DeForest kick)
D – Rowe, 8 run (Zach McArthur kick)
D – McArthur, 20 run (McArthur kick)
C – Bowe, 1 run (Nett pass from Bowe)
C – Resnick, 25 run (DeForest kick)
D – Levi Wedig, 6 run (McArthur kick)
D – Tyler Black, 13 run (McArthur kick)
C – Resnick, 1 run (Resnick run)
Team Stats: First Downs- C 12; D 15. Rushing- C 42-241; D 61-325. Passing- C 9-23-1, 105; D 4-11-1, 36. Fumbles-Lost- C 1-0; D 0-0. Penalties- C 5-36, D 2-12.
Darlington Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Seth Rowe 29-154-3. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Zach McArthur, 4-11-1-0, 36. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Mitchell Whalen, 3-33-0.