November 29th, 2020

Cougars Stop Eagles Short in OT Nailbiter

Jeff Woods 

Staff Writer 

 Cougars Stop Eagles Short in OT Nailbiter
Photo by Jeff Woods

Holy Cross senior quarterback Chaz Geraghty led the charge for the Cougars Saturday night, scoring four rushing touchdowns against Bethlehem. But the play of the game belonged to junior Garrett Thornsberry.


On second thought, it was the play of the year.


Thornsberry made the game-saving tackle on Bethlehem’s Ladarion Montgomery to preserve the 28-27 overtime victory over the Eagles and advance to next week’s Class A state quarterfinals.


“Ladarion Montgomery is one of the best I’ve ever seen. And to stop him on the two, my hats off to him. You’re bringing your lunch when you tackle that kid,” said Holy Cross head coach Eric Dick.


Trailing 28-21 in overtime, the Eagles scored on a six-yard Montgomery touchdown run to make it a one-point game. Bethlehem elected to attempt the two-point conversion rather than kick the extra point and force a second overtime. Both teams called a timeout before the final play, Bethlehem first, then Holy Cross.  


“We knew what they had just scored on, and we could tell they were going to try the same thing again,” said Dick. “We called a timeout because we were outnumbered on that side and wanted to make sure we adjusted correctly.”


Needing two yards for the game-winning conversion, Montgomery took the handoff from quarterback Cooper Stone and ran right side, but was met and tackled by Thornsberry at the four-yard line to end the game.


“I was scared he was about to cut back,” said Thornsberry, playing his first game in more than a month due to a shoulder injury and concussion. “Nothing could’ve stopped me from getting out here tonight. Possibly the last game of the season, I wanted to be out here no matter what.”


Behind the scenes, the Cougars faced concerns right up until kickoff. The team was forced to quarantine for ten days due to Covid-19 concerns, which delayed the game until Saturday and prevented the team from practicing until Thursday and Friday. The game also marked the team’s first game in three weeks due to Holy Cross earning a first-round bye.


“To be honest, I was very skeptical,” said Dick. “Two days to get ready for a team like that is a tough task. But everybody bought in. On Thursday, when we wanted to cut loose, I thought, ‘We’re going to look sluggish. It’s going to be bad.’ But they were ready to go. We knew what was on the line.”


Any concerns about coming out flat quickly vanished when the Cougars defense forced a three-and-out to open the game while the offense scored on its first two possessions for an early 13-0 lead. Bethlehem trimmed its deficit to 13-7 with a 13-yard Zane Wickliffe touchdown run late in the first half.


Still leading 13-7, the Cougars marched down the field on a 17-play drive that took up much of the third quarter. However, the Eagles forced a field goal attempt, which they blocked. Holy Cross kicker Larry Key was injured on the play and did not return. On the next play, Stone went deep to Montgomery for an 80-yard touchdown to give Bethlehem its first lead of the game at 14-13.


With the season on the line, the Cougars turned to who else but Geraghty. He led a ten-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Geraghty rushing for a two-yard touchdown. He also scored on the two-point conversion to put Holy Cross back in the lead 21-14 with five minutes to play. Geraghty also scored the go-ahead touchdown in overtime that put Holy Cross ahead for good.


“I know with him, he wants it,” said Dick. “He wants it more than any person on this team. I knew beyond a shadow of the doubt when we needed something, it would be him that was going to do it. He said, ‘Whatever you need, Coach, just give me the ball.’ That’s what we did in overtime and this entire game. We rode him all the way through. He’s an unbelievable player.”


Geraghty took a big hit just before halftime and gingerly walked off the field. Geraghty said after the game, he had the wind knocked out of him, and nothing would keep him off the field.


“Best leader,” said Thornsberry. “He went out there and laid it all on the line, and that’s all you can ask for.”


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