Class D2 top-ranked and fourth-seeded FC Sacred Heart got slightly spooked in the first round of the playoffs Thursday at Jug Brown, but responded with a vengeance, erasing first-half deficits of 12-0 and 18-8 by scoring 44 unanswered points in a 52-18 victory over Emerson-Hubbard.
It was a rematch of last year’s opening round game and 52-13 Sacred Heart win, though it was a much different game for 24 minutes than one might think. FCSH, now 8-1 and hosting 7-2 Randolph, a 76-33 winner over Johnson-Brock, at 3 p.m. Wednesday, got a slight case of the drops and had an early score negated by a penalty that actually came on the previous play (?), and the upset-minded Pirates capitalized. Austin Ostrand caught an eight-yard scoring pass from Taylor Donner after an Irish fumble gave the visitors first-and-goal at the nine. Then EM — and a peculiar penalty call — gave the Pirates the ball at their own 31. This time they marched 49 yards in seven plays, capped by a 13-yard run by Haberman, and suddenly the D2 favorites were down 12-0 in the second quarter.
It didn’t take sophomore Christian Harring and the Irish offense long to answer, as he busted a 32-yard TD run less than two minutes later. Senior QB Bailey Witt added the two-point conversion, but E-M was not finished. An 18-yard TD pass from Donner to Brice Morgan put the underdogs up 18-8 with 7:55 to play in the half. An almost certain Irish scoring drive was floundered away into the E-M end zone for a touchback and with the clock inching closer to halftime, Halloween was dawning two days early at Jug Brown.
But enter Henry Arnold. After the Irish D stiffened, forcing a three-and-out, Arnold took the ensuing punt at his own 33 and completely flipped the field, taking it 57 yards to the house. His brother, Sean, added the two-point conversion and it was a two-point Pirate lead at half.
And the second half was all Irish. The home team scored on offense (three Witt runs of 10, 1 and 31 yards) and a four-yard run by Harring, and defense (a 38-yard fumble recovery by Michael Keithley) to win going away.
The Irish are competing in the playoffs for an ongoing state-record 28thstraight year.