Fairfield was trailing and out of timeouts with under two minutes to go. The Knights couldn’t allow Hanover to get another first down or the Nighthawks would run out the clock.
Facing a 3rd-and-5 at the Fairfield 41, Hanover’s Chase Roberts took the shotgun snap and was under immediate pressure from Johnathan Anders causing, Roberts to heave the ball up and it was plucked out of the air by Cody Valentine.
This set up the Knights with the ball at the Hanover 45 with 1:37 to go and they pushed the itdown the field to set up Jake Myers for the game-winning 28-yard field with seven seconds remaining in their heart-stopping 31-30 victory in YAIAA-3 football action Friday night at Sheppard and Myers Stadium in Hanover.
“We called a blitz, hoping to put pressure on (Roberts),” Fairfield head coach Jason Thurston said. “We got through and he just threw it up for grabs.”
Valentine added, “I was just thinking that we had to stop them and get the ball back to have a chance.”
A senior two-way player, Valentine followed his heroic defensive play with the two biggest offensive plays on the winning drive.
He began the drive with a 12-yard run, then after an incompletion, he gained 25 yards down to the Hanover 8 with under a minute to go.
Following Myers’ field goal, Hanover took over at its own 29 with four ticks remaining and Roberts’ long pass fell innocently to the turf as the Knights celebrated their third win of the campaign.
“We don’t have a lot of guys on our team, but they’ve got heart, guts and they work hard,” Thurston said. “That was something that I was looking for when I took this job a few years back. (Former Fairfield Athletic Director) Crystal Heller told me when I interviewed for the position that these kids were hard workers and I was in immediately.”
Fairfield (3-1, 2-0) jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the opening quarter with Myers scoring on two-yard keeper after Victor McRae fell on Nighthawk fumble at the 3-yard line.
Then Will Myers blocked a Hanover punt and Peyton Stadler pounced on it in the end zone and it was a two-touchdown advantage for the visitors.
Hanover (2-4, 1-2) hung the next 24 points on the board with Roberts throwing a trio of touchdown strikes, two to Breydan Parry and the other to Joey Wilkinson, whose score made it 24-14 with 1:00 to go until the break.
The Knights responded with a quick scoring drive that saw Myers connect on back-to-back post routes to Andrew Koons, the second one resulting in a score from 25 yards out with five seconds to go until halftime.
Roberts began the second half by hitting Bryan Karst with a dart on a skinny post for a 64-yard touchdown, most of which came after the catch, just over a minute into the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Myers connected with Koons three times for 50 yards and Valentine ended the march when he carried it in from 10 yards out with 7:06 to go in the third quarter.
Roberts proved to be a problem all night as he slung it all over the yard, completing passes to eight different receivers and going 24-of-43 for 332 yards and four touchdowns. It was his second consectutive game topping 300 yards through the air and tossing four scores.
“Eastern (York) plays a similar style to how Hanover plays, so we had to look back at how we prepared for that game to prepare for this one,” Thurston said. “(Roberts) is so quick at getting the ball out. It’s 1, 2, 3, ball’s gone. You have very little time to react.”
Myers had a big night through the air for the Knights as he was 13-of-26 for 228 yards and a score, while also adding 29 yards and a rushing touchdown. Meanwhile, Koons grabbed seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Fairfield played more than half the game without a pair of two-way starters juniors Connor Joy and Conor McVey both suffered injuries that caused them to be carted off the field.
“It inspired us,” Valentine said of playing following the injuries. “(Joy) is my cousin and we wanted to win the game for those guys.”
Fairfield travels to York Catholic (4-0, 2-0) for its next contest on Friday at 7 p.m.
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas
Fairfield 14 7 7 3 — 31
Hanover 7 17 6 0 — 30
F-Jake Myers 2 run, 6:41. Myers kick
F-Peyton Stadler blocked punt in end zone, 5:37. Myers kick
H-Breydan Parry 9 pass from Chase Roberts, 1:33. Dylan Bull kick
H-Parry 16 pass from Roberts, 10:05. Bull kick
H-Bull 26 field goal, 7:24
H-Joey Wilkinson 29 pass from Roberts, 1:00. Bull kick
F-Andrew Koons 25 pass from Myers, :05. Myers kick
H-Bryan Karst 64 pass from Roberts, 10:48. kick failed
F-Cody Valentine 10 run, 7:06. Myers kick
F-Myers 28 field goal, :07
First Downs 14 19
Rushing 31-114 18-72
Passing 13-26-1 24-43-1
Passing Yards 228 332
Total Yards 342 404
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties 8-77 2-10
Punts 2-34.0 1-26.0
Rushing: F — Valentine 12-60, Myers 7-29, Stadler 10-28, Dominic Smitley 1-2, Connor Joy 1-(-5); H — Roger Walker 8-35, Zion Heath 6-34, Roberts 4-3.
Passing: F — Myers 13-26-228-1; H — Roberts 24-43-332-1.
Receiving: F — Koons 7-126, Stadler 4-43, Valentine 2-59; H — Bull 5-67, Parry 5-65, Wilkinson 4-74, Mitchell Brown 4-31, Heath 3-26, Walker 2-0, Karst 1-64.