CAMBRIA — Senior Kobe Smit checked his first option. Nothing. Then he checked his second option. Again, nothing.
The quarterback on Cambria-Friesland’s prep football team had only one option left after that. And boy did it ever produce one thrilling result.
In an entirely unpredictable way, no less.
Smit’s 17-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Gavin Winchell — an offensive lineman a month ago before switching positions because of an injury to the starting tight end — with 6 seconds remaining lifted the second-seeded Hilltoppers to a 32-27 victory over third-seeded Burlington Catholic Central on Friday night in a WIAA Division 6 playoff game.
“Not a chance, no,” Winchell said when asked if he thought the ball would come his way. “That’s a play more for faster guys — I’m supposed to be a blocking tight end. But I went out for it. I put my hand up and he saw me. It’s amazing.
“I just thought to myself, ‘Just don’t drop it — just catch it.’”
And he did, in the back of the end zone on a seam route.
“I want to give full credit to my linemen. They gave me plenty of time that I could look at all my options,” Smit said of being able to go through his reads and find Winchell. “I just saw a glimpse of him and I just let it fly, because I knew that’s all we had left.
It was, in fact, the first catch of the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Winchell’s career.
The way he put his hand up to catch Smit’s eye, though, made it look like he’s been playing tight end all his life.
“I guess in his mind he always has been,” C-F coach Jim Bylsma said with a laugh.
Cambria-Friesland (4-1) found itself needing the heroics of Smit and Winchell because Catholic Central (2-3) marched 72 yards in nine plays on the previous drive and took a 27-26 lead on quarterback Maxwell Robson’s 18-yard TD run with 1:16 to go.
C-F simply buckled up the chinstraps and went to work.
“After they scored, everyone said, ‘Don’t’ keep your heads down, we’ve got a minute and 16 seconds left, let’s make a drive — let’s make something memorable.’” Winchell said of the team’s mindset. “It worked in our favor. It was a great drive.”
It sure was. C-F started at its own 41 and picked up three first downs to get into the red zone, with the big gainers being a 15-yard catch by Drake Burmania — it was his 25-yard TD catch in the first half that got C-F on the board — before a nine-yard run on third-and-8 by Owen Jones then a 10-yard run by Mason Hughes.
In what had been a back-and-forth second half, it was C-F that ultimately prevailed
“We haven’t played for two weeks (because of COVID-19 cancelations) and you could tell there was some rust,” said Bylsma, whose team’s counterpart in Catholic Central hadn’t played since a 49-13 win over Whitefish Bay Dominican on Oct. 16. “But what was impressive was, when they needed to, they got right to it and they took the ball right down the field. So a lot of credit to the determination of these guys.”
The game was tied at 14 at halftime but C-F came out and went 68 yards in 13 plays, chewing up almost 8 minutes on the clock before Jones’ 4-yard TD scamper made it 20-14 in the third quarter.
Catholic Central answered right back, however, and took a 21-20 lead on Robson’s 6-yard TD run with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Then with 5:45 to go in the game, Jones, who ran for 192 yards on 25 carries (7.6 yards per attempt), got his third TD of the contest on a 7-yard run to make it 26-21.
That set the stage for the thrilling finish, which in this strange postseason — the WIAA has set up pods of four teams across six divisions throughout the state — might mean very little as far as championships or a deep playoff runs goes, but certainly will go down as one of the best victories for C-F in program history.
“We’re happy to be playing again. Now we get another 48 minutes of football, and in this season, that’s as good as it gets. Forty-eight minutes at a time,” said Bylsma, whose team will now play top-seeded Randolph next week to determine the winner of the four-team bracket.
“Every kid wants to play that right there. Who cares about the blowouts — those games are the ones that count, and those are the fun ones,” added Smit. “We’ll remember this 50 years later. This is all we’ll talk about, is how we scored and how we won that playoff game.”
CAMBRIA-FRIESLAND 32, CATHOLIC CENTRAL 27</&hspag3>
Catholic Central 7 7 7 6 — 27
Cambria-Friesland 0 14 6 12 — 32
CC — Maxwell Robson 2 run (Christian Pedone kick), 6:56, 1st.
CF — Drake Burmania 25 pass from Kobe Smit (run failed), 8:07, 2nd.
CC — Neal McCourt 1 run (Christian Pedone kick), 5:30, 2nd.
CF — Owen Jones 13 run (Mason Hughes run), 2:11, 2nd.
CF — Owen Jones 4 run (pass failed), 4:21, 3rd.
CC — Maxwell Robson 6 run (Christian Pedone kick), 00:42, 3rd.
CF — Owen Jones 7 run (pass failed), 5:45, 4th.
CC — Maxwell Robson 18 run (pass failed), 1:16, 4th.
CF — Gavin Winchell 17 pass from Kobe Smit (run failed), 00:06, 4th.
First downs — CC 25, CF 27. Rushing yards — CC 372, CF 311. Passing yards — CC 0, CF 89. Total yards — CC 372, CF 390. Fumbles lost — CC 2, CF 2. Interceptions — CC 1, CF 1. Penalties-yards — CC 4-18, CF 7-64.
Rushing: CC — Reid Mullenbach 23-161, Neal McCourt 14-123, Maxwell Robson 15-90. CF — Owen Jones 25-192, Mason Hughes 13-83, Cade Burmania 9-36.
Passing: CC — Maxwell Robson 0-5-0-0. CF — Kobe Smit 6-10-89-2-1.
Receiving: CC — None. CF — Drake Burmania 3-80, Owen Jones 1-17, Gavin Winchell 1-17, Cade Burmania 1-5.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.
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