Believe it or not, the Heritage Timberwolves’ postseason hopes are still alive.
That’s because the Timberwolves never stopped believing.
E’Lon Mack scored on a 13-yard touchdown reception from Joey Cooper on fourth down in the overtime period, and Rajheem Carrie caught the conversion pass, giving the Timberwolves a 21-20 victory over Battle Ground on Friday at McKenzie Stadium.
“The key word is ‘faith,’ ” Carrie said. “When we got into the huddle, we said, ‘Never give up.’ We believed in each other, stuck together and got the win.”
Heritage (2-6, 1-2 4A Greater St. Helens League) snapped a five-game losing streak and can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Evergreen next week.
Before the thrilling end however, Heritage’s faith was tested several times late in Friday’s game.
After Battle Ground tied the game at 13 with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter, Heritage drove 69 yards on 12 plays, setting up a 22-yard field goal attempt for the lead with 1:04 left. But the Battle Ground defense broke through and blocked the kick, preserving the tie and sending the game into overtime.
On the first play of the overtime period, Battle Ground’s Trevor Ingram broke free on a 25-yard touchdown run, putting the Tigers ahead 20-13. Ingram had a huge second half for the Tigers, rushing for 137 yards of his 138 rushing yards after the intermission.
Then it was Heritage’s turn with the ball. The Timberwolves converted a third down on a pass to Carrie to the 12. A run by Cooper set up a fourth-and-six from the Battle Ground 8 when a penalty moved the Timberwolves back to the 13.
Cooper then lofted a high pass to Mack, and the 6-foot-1 sophomore went up and caught the ball for the touchdown.
“Phenomenal throw, and phenomenal catch,” Heritage coach Jack Hathaway said.
Mack finished with eight catches for 78 yards.
“They had been doubling me most of the game,” Mack said. “But in the overtime, they singled me. So Joey made a great throw, and I just had to go get it.”
Cooper said: “I just threw it to my favorite player, and let him make the play.”
With Heritage having a field goal and an earlier PAT kick blocked, Hathaway wasted no time in deciding to go for the win.
On the conversion play, Cooper took the snap and looked for Mack to his left, but he was covered. Cooper eluded the rush, worked back to his right and found Carrie open in the right corner of the end zone for the victory.
“That wasn’t how we drew it up,” Cooper said. “When they covered our first option, I kind of panicked. But luckily I was able to avoid the rush and find Rajheem, who made a great catch.”
Carrie said: “Joey’s avoidance ability made that play possible. This win was a true team effort.”
Cooper battled through a strained lower back all game. Asked how his back felt after the game, Cooper said: “It feels like a victory.”
Battle Ground, which played without starting quarterback Ian Humphrey (flu), twice came within one play of clinching its first playoff berth in five seasons. Now, the Tigers (4-4, 1-3) have to hope Evergreen beats Heritage next week to force a three-way tiebreaker for the final playoff berth.
Heritage hopes that the tiebreaker won’t be needed.
“We talked about finishing strong, and this win gives us the chance to do that,” Hathaway said. “Good things can happen when you make the playoffs, and you can turn your season around.”
Cooper, who passed for 126 yards, added: “Our focus now is all on Evergreen.”
“We’ve got to ready for Evergreen,” Mack said. “Evergreen will be hungry.”
Given new life on Friday, the Timberwolves will be ready for Evergreen next week.
You can believe that.
HERITAGE 21, BATTLE GROUND 20, OT
Battle Ground 6 0 0 7 7—20
Heritage 6 7 0 0 8—21
H — Tanner Ulsh 38 pass from Joey Cooper (kick blocked)
BG — Tyler Bergeron 3 run (kick failed)
H — E’Lon Mack 10 pass from Cooper (Gage Boyce kick)
BG — Trevor Ingram 16 run (Mac Brandenburger kick)
BG — Ingram 25 run (Brandenburger kick)
H — Mack 13 pass from Cooper (Rajheem Currie pass from Cooper)
Rushing — Battle Ground — Ingram 20-138, Bergeron 14-62, Colston Vukanovich 3-2, Blake Billingsley 2-3. Heritage — Carrie 11-85, Boyce 9-55, Nate Jenkins 8-43, Cooper 11-28, Brandon Burns 2-3.
Passing — Battle Ground — Vukanovich 7-16-1-55. Heritage — Cooper 10-16-3-126.
Receiving — Battle Ground — Ingram 4-25, Kevin Haynes 1-13, Bergeron 1-12, Hayden Humphrey 1-5. Heritage — Mack 8-78, Ushin 1-38, Carrie 1-10.