PARSONS - As members of the Tucker County football team walked off the snow-covered turf of R.H. Armstrong Memorial Field (Class of 1984 Stadium) on Saturday, the end of a special season became a reality.
The top-ranked Mountain Lions saw their dreams of playing in the Class A title game vanish when quarterback Ross Comis scored on a 1-yard run in the second overtime to give No. 4 Madonna a hard-earned 20-14 victory.
"It was a tough way to end our season," said Tucker County coach A.J. Rapp, whose team finished the season 12-1. "Our seniors, who I want to thank for a great season, had one goal and that was to play in the state title game.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joey Kittle
Tucker County’s Derek Nestor follows the blocking of teammates Zach Armstrong (33) and Taylor Zirk (72) to pick up yardage against Madonna Saturday in Class A semifinal action in Parsons.
"We just fell one game short."
The Mountain Lion defense, which made two key goal-line stands in the first half to keep the game tied at 7-7 at the intermission, again came up big at the end of regulation, and on Madonna's first series of overtime.
After the Blue Dons drove to the Tucker County 2-yard line with time running out in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Lions were able to block a low field-goal attempt to force overtime.
Madonna had the first possession in the extra period but Tucker County held on downs on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1.
The Mountain Lions were unable to capitalize on their possession, however, as a 37-yard field goal attempt was short.
On Tucker County's third play from scrimmage in the second overtime, a blitzing Eliott Nero hit quarterback Derek Nestor and forced a fumble that was recovered by the visitors.
It took the Blue Dons just three plays on their series to find paydirt as Comis scored the game-winning touchdown on a first-and-goal run.
"I'm very proud of the effort our kids gave," said Madonna coach Doug Taylor. "To make the long bus trip over here and beat a very good Tucker County team is a credit to them. There was a reason why Tucker County was ranked first, and our kids played their hearts out against them."
In a hard-hitting game played in frigid conditions and blistering snow, Madonna took a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard run by Nero in the first quarter.
The Mountain Lions answered with 9:55 left in the first half when a 35-yard scamper by Zach Armstrong on a screen pass from Nestor set up a 1-yard run by Austin Zirk.
The Blue Dons regained the lead at 14-7 on a 4-yard run by Comis late in the third quarter.
Tucker County tied the game with 5:10 left in regulation. A 16-yard pass from Nestor to Zirk on a fourth-and-five play led to a 1-yard score by Nestor.
Cory DiBartolomeo led the Mountain Lions defense with 10 tackles and three sacks in his high school finale. Sophomore Marshall Whisner added 10 tackles and one sack.
Nestor, a senior, had 57 yards rushing and completed 5-of-22 passes for 98 yards. Tucker County was held to just 63 yards rushing.
Senior Nathaniel Goldstein had two catches for 30 yards, while fellow senior Tyler Snyder had two receptions for 17 yards.
"It was a good game," Rapp said. "Our defense really came up big for us, especially in the fourth quarter. Just a couple of plays went against us in overtime."
Comis, a junior, finished with 101 yards rushing for the winners, while Nero added 71. Comis also threw for 142 yards with Marcello Biondillo hauling in three catches for 61 yards.
Tucker County loses 11 seniors to graduation.
"It was a special group to coach," Rapp said. "We had a very good season. But I think the future looks bright because we have some good players returning next year."
Madonna (12-1) will face Wahama at 7 p.m. Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium for the state title. Wahama defeated Magnolia 10-7 to advance.