ALEXANDRIA - With 22 seconds left in a tied game and Juniata Valley with the ball at the Williamsburg 11 after the Green Hornets' last timeout, the referee blew the whistle at almost the same time as JV quarterback Caleb Taylor took the snap.
Nearly everybody on both sides, including Taylor, stopped after hearing the whistle.
"I was kind of taken aback by it," Taylor said, "but I just kept playing until they said otherwise."
Indeed he did. After his hesitation, Taylor dropped back with mostly everybody still thinking the play was dead, found running back Jesse Claar near the goal line, completed the pass and Claar muscled his way past a defender with 16 seconds left.
"We just finished the play," Taylor said. "I threw it to our playmaker, and he made a play for me."
"I heard the whistle," Claar said, "but I just kept going."
Claar - a workhorse for sure with 28 carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns - ran in the two-point conversion to cap off a crazy fourth quarter in which there were six TDs scored (three for both teams) and lift the Green Hornets to a 34-26 win on a warm homecoming night at A.R. Simkins Field.
After the controversial score, the Blue Pirates' defenders protested and the referee explained the whistle to Williamsburg coach Bob Hearn.
"The way he explained it to me was he was blowing the whistle for the ball to be ready to play," Hearn said. "He told me the umpire stepped back and they snapped the ball. It was such a close time, a lot of players stopped. It was just one of those really, really strange plays you hate to see a ball game to come down to."
"The whistle blew, and then we snapped it. It was almost instantaneous," JV coach Mike Smith said. "If I was [Hearn], I would probably be mad too. But, I was right here on this hash, and I could hear the whistle blow and then the snap. Their defensive back went out [to cover] our guy. It was more the defensive linemen didn't rush as hard, so it affected them."
It appeared the Hornets (4-2) had delivered the knockout punch with 1:59 left in the game when Caleb Wagner scored on a 2-yard run. Claar chewed up 24 yards on seven carries on the drive, including a 6-yard run on fourth-and-3 with 4:25 left. Fitting considering Claar was involved in 12 of JV's first-quarter 13 plays.
"We were feeling pretty good," Taylor said, "but we kind of let up a little bit."
Pirate QB Austin McMonagle (152 passing yards) wasn't done, throwing his fourth down pass of the game and third touchdown of the fourth quarter when he connected with Mike Biddle from 43 yards out with 1:39 remaining. The Pirates (3-3) hadn't converted an extra point or two-pointer until McMonagle scrambled in for two points to tie the score, 26-26.
"That's one of those plays where we've scored at least four touchdowns on," Hearn said. "Mike Biddle did a great job of running the route and getting behind the corner."
"He's a very good quarterback, very athletic kid," Smith said. "You've got to try to contain him inside, but if he breaks contain, you're done. That's what happened on that two-point conversion."
Neither team had much luck with the squib kick, and when the Pirates squibbed after the tying score, JV took over at its own 48 with 1:38 left. Taylor completed three passes on the ensuing six-play drive, including the game-winner to Claar.
"He made a heck of a catch because that kid was right there beside him," Smith said. "He had a heck of a game."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Williamsburg6 0 0 20 - 26
Juniata Valley14 0 0 20 - 34
JV-Claar 14 pass from Taylor (Taylor kick), 7:43
W-Biddle 13 pass from McMonagle (kick failed), 4:37
JV-Claar 4 run (Taylor kick), 1:04
W-Young 24 pass from McMonagle (pass failed), 11:52
JV-Taylor 45 run (kick failed), 9:48
W-Young 11 pass from McMonagle (pass failed), 6:01
JV-Wagner 2 run (kick failed), 1:59
W-Biddle 43 pass from McMonagle (McMonagle run), 1:39
JV-Claar 11 pass from Taylor (Claar run), :16
RUSHING: Williamsburg-Biddle 10-70, McMonagle 7-24, Morrisey 6-20, Shaw 4-4. Juniata Valley-Claar 28-147, Taylor 12-83, Maysonet 5-48, Wagner 2-6.
PASSING: Williamsburg-McMonagle 8-20-1-152. Juniata Valley-Taylor 8-13-1-113.
RECEIVING: Williamsburg-Young 3-62, Biddle 2-56, Morrisey 2-22, Shaw 1-12. Juniata Valley-Gable 2-43, Maysonet 3-34, Claar 2-25, Leydig 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS: Williamsburg-Morrisey. Juniata Valley-Maysonet.