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Persistency pays off for Dillon

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 11, 2003

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – and use Dillon as an example.

After squandering a pair of golden opportunities to put Keenan away, Dillon finally punched in a third-and-goal and then held off the Knights as the Big Red triumphed 13-6 in four overtimes and secured a trip to the stadium for the championship game against Siegfried.

“Our defense bent, but it didn’t break,” Dillon captain J.T. Arseniadis said. “We gave up a lot of yards, but they never made it into the end zone.”

After a missed field goal by Keenan kicker Andrew Warner and a punt by each team, the Big Red drew first blood as the half came to a close.

Taking over at its 20-yard line with only 26 seconds remaining in the half, Dillon used an 18-yard run and a 45-yard reception by Jamie Martin on a tipped pass to set up a field goal attempt at the Keenan 17-yard line with 10 seconds left on the clock.

The Big Red kicker split the uprights on a 34-yarder, staking Dillon to a 3-0 lead at the half.

After a trio of punts, Keenan began a do-or-die drive at its own 47 with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Feeding the Big Red a steady diet of tailback Alex Staffieri, the Knights moved into Dillon territory and used an 18-yard run by Reed Langton to set up an eventual 33-yard field goal by Warner to knot the score at 3-3 with three minutes left.

Three straight Dillon incompletions and a punt followed by a 37-yard catch by Knight Blake Haan gave Keenan a chance to take the contest in regulation.

However, Warner hooked the potential game winning 35-yarder wide left, and the game headed to overtime.

Starting with the ball and a first-and-goal at the Dillon 10-yard line in overtime, Keenan ran the ball three times and opted to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the two.

However, tailback Ben Ramsour was stopped short, setting up Dillon’s first opportunity to win the game.

“We did consider [kicking a field goal], but we were around the two and wanted to put a lot of pressure on Dillon,” Keenan captain Patrick Downey said. “Hindsight is always 20/20, but we were confident that we could get it.”

Needing only a field goal, Dillon took over at the 10 and moved the ball to the three-yard line. Instead of attempting the game-winner on third down, the Big Red waited until fourth. The decision proved costly.

Dillon quarterback and holder Michael Johnson couldn’t handle a poor snap and the Knights dodged a season-ending bullet on the miscue.

After trading field goals in the second overtime, Staffieri coughed up the ball on the first play of the third overtime, handing Dillon yet another prime opportunity.

Once again, however, the Big Red was unable to take advantage of the gift as Dillon failed to reach the goal line on both third and fourth down from inside the one.

“It was discouraging [not to score], but we knew the offense was working well and that we could stop them on defense,” Arseniadis said. “I believed in my teammates, and they showed a lot of heart, which is the biggest mark of a great team.”

Finally, Dillon broke through in the fourth overtime when Johnson plowed into the end zone on third down. The Knights were unable to match the Big Red as Downey’s fourth down desperation pass fell incomplete.

“Our goal was to get to the Stadium, and we have some unfinished business there,” Arseniadis said. “We just need to play up to our potential. Everything hasn’t clicked all at the same time, and if there is ever a time for that to happen, it’s in [the championship] game.”