Daily Camera file photo
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
FREDERICK — Quarterback Bryce Conover only had four plays to lead his fifth-ranked Frederick football team to another series in overtime.
Holy Family, who’s ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, had already scored on a pass from sophomore quarterback Rylan Cooney to senior Dominic Mazzulla to go up 42-35 on its first possession of OT. Conover’s pass fell right through the hands of his receiver on the Warriors’ fourth down to secure the Tigers’ stunning top-10 victory.
Cooney breathed a sigh of relief.
“It was very gratifying,” he said. “We worked very hard this week. I give it all to my O-line, all to my wide receivers and I’m very happy to come away with a (win).”
In doing so, the Tigers put an end to Frederick’s comeback effort that saw the Warriors erase a 14-point deficit after the half. The contest proved to be everything football fans could have hoped for in a top-10 matchup and more.
Cooney accounted for all six of the Tigers’ touchdowns as he threw for 301 yards, including an 80-yard monster to Mazzulla at the start of the second half. Mazzulla earned 97 offensive yards as senior Jacob Lawver added 114 more.
On the other side of the ball, Conover threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns, both of which he lobbed to junior Lafai Purcell, who finished the game with 109 yards. Junior Cruz Zamudio added 114 yards to that total.
“It’s hard knowing that we could have had it but at the same time, it was 21-7 at halftime,” Conover said. “I’m super proud of us for fighting back but this one’s going to hurt for a while.”
Holy Family’s defense proved nearly impenetrable in the first half as the Tigers earned not one, but two huge stops to keep the Warriors from creeping closer to the scores they had put up.
At the end of the first quarter, the Warriors got the ball back at Holy Family’s 15-yard line after a short punt from the back of the end zone. Despite the optimal field position that started in the red zone, the Tigers wouldn’t let them get much further.
They did it again at the end of the second quarter, but this time, the Tigers stopped the Warriors just three yards from the end zone.
The Tiger offense, likewise, was white-hot throughout the first 24 minutes of play as it managed to put up 217 yards, thanks in large part to Cooney’s 197 yards in the air. Frederick, by contrast, only put up 123 offensive yards.
Holy Family led 21-7 at the midway point, but that wouldn’t last for long.
The Tigers opened up the second half with the 80-yard bomb from Cooney to Mazzulla to go up 28-7. Such a play would normally deflate the team that’s been lagging behind all game.
It did quite the opposite.
The Warriors stormed back over the next two possessions to put up two more touchdowns while their defense held the Tigers to a three-and-out on the possession in between. The teams spent the rest of the third quarter exchanging blows as Holy Family continued to hold the one-touchdown advantage.
“We went into halftime and coach (Travis Peeples) just told us straight up, he said, ‘It’s going to be a dog fight. Nothing is given to us and we’re going to need to work for this one.’ It ended up being a dog fight,” Conover said. “We were super loud in the locker room and we knew what we had to do. We almost did it.”
The fourth quarter was, indeed, all Frederick’s. The Warriors once again put up two scores while holding Holy Family to another three-and-out. They tied up the game with a short run from Ayres with 4:27 to go and, eventually, forced extra time.
In the end, the Tigers out-played their hosts just enough to walk away victorious.
“We knew that we would have to battle back and see what we could do to put points on the board,” Cooney said. “That’s what we did. We came away with it.”
The Warriors, now 5-1, will look to bounce back next Friday when they host Thompson Valley. Holy Family, now 5-2, will have to face another tough opponent when it hosts No. 2 Mead on the same night.