HOLLADAY — The undefeated Skyline Eagles traveled to Olympus to take on the 5-4 Titans in the battle for "The Rock" Friday night. The matchup may have looked lopsided on paper, but when the two rivals meet on a Friday night, anything is possible.
Olympus looked to be in good position to win the game after quarterback Tommy Hoggan threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Rice to give his team a 21-14 lead with 8:55 left to go in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles responded with quarterback Braxton Bolingbroke, who led his team down to the Olympus goal line; but disaster quickly struck Skyline. The Eagles were hit with a delay of game penalty and Bolingbroke was sacked, which turned a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line into fourth-and-goal from the 14.
With the game on the line, Bolingbroke delivered a strike to receiver Hudson Manwaring, who made a diving catch to tie the game with just over three minutes left in the game.
Hoggan, though, was not ready to see his team lose to its bitter rival. The Titans quickly drove down the field in a standard two-minute drill. And when the Titans needed a big play, Hoggan threw a perfect pass right over the Skyline defenders' head and receiver Ryan Reynard hauled in the pass that was downed at the Eagles' 3-yard line with only 29 seconds left to play.
The Titans attempted to pound it in but were stuffed short pf the goal. On the ensuing play, in an effort to beat the expiring clock, the Titans attempted to run the ball again but were not lined up incorrectly and the play looked to be a total bust. Hoggan realized the broken play as he took the snap and decided to keep the ball. He rolled out to the right where his blockers led him to the go-ahead touchdown with five seconds left in regulation and the eventual 28-21 win over Skyline.
Hoggan said after the game that the win was something he'd been dreaming about since he was a kid, and having it finally come true was even better than he could have imagined. "All throughout your childhood you're taught to not like the Eagles, and to go out here and get a win feels amazing," he said.
Hoggan made several big plays with his arm, but also moved the chains with his legs in short yardage situations. He may have only had two touchdowns, one throwing and one rushing, but they happened to be the two biggest of the night. Titans head coach Aaron Whitehead said he was proud of the way his team executed and battled all night in the gritty win.
"This is one of the best all-around games we've played all year, and I'm proud of our guys," Whitehead said.
The Titans offense may have stolen the show latte in the game, but its defense was able to consistently stifle the Eagles offense all night — they held the Eagles to their lowest scoring game of the season. Whitehead said he believed it was because his defensive coordinator Brandon Burt executed a great game plan.
"We wanted to be prepared going into this game, so we put in a new package that we haven't used in the 10 years since I've been here, and it worked," Whitehead said.
Two of the biggest aspects to the Titans' defensive success was defensive end Erik Pederson and defensive back Jackson Bennee. Pederson had two sacks and was constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield, and Bennee had the best play of the night when he picked off a pass to a Skyline receiver with one hand to halt the Eagles' first possession of the game.
Big-time plays and a hard week of practice payed off big for the Titans; they now improve to 6-4 on the season but managed an impressive 4-1 record in region play. The Eagles finish the regular season with a tough loss to their rivals, but its only their first loss of the season as they move to 7-1 on the year and 4-1 in region play.
Both teams will head to the playoffs looking to make some noise in the Classification 5A state tournament.