The Blue Devils beat Wellsville 27-6 and can clinch a playoff berth next week.
BY ERIC HAMILTON
WELLSVILLE -- One point -- one lousy computer point.
That was all that stood between the McDonald High football team and the Division VI playoffs in 2005. To make matters worse, the Blue Devils had beaten the team that grabbed the last qualifying spot -- Mathews -- 34-7 in the regular season.
The sting of feeling left out has been a motivating factor for the Blue Devils this season and they aren't leaving anything to chance.
On the strength of Friday's 27-6 victory over Wellsville, McDonald (7-2, 5-1 ITCL Tier Two) has put itself into a good position to wrap up a berth in the state playoffs for the first time since 2000.
A win next week against Jackson-Milton secures a Division VI postseason spot and at least a piece of the Blue Devils' first league title since 1998.
"All summer the seniors talked about being left out of the playoffs last year and getting it done this year," said McDonald coach Dan Williams. "We didn't want to rely on points and hope to get in. Now we control our own destiny and it's up to us and not the computers."
Senior running back Matt Firment made sure his squad took care of business against Wellsville (5-4, 3-3), whose playoff hopes are now gone. Firment did a little bit of everything, racking up 149 all-purpose yards, including 83 rushing and 66 receiving. On defense, he added an interception.
"We were upset last year, so we just worked twice as hard last winter," said Firment. "Our goals were to go 10-0, win the league and make the playoffs. If we win next week, I think we'll be excited because we'll reach two of our three goals."
Both offenses looked good early, as McDonald and Wellsville scored on their opening possessions.
The Blue Devils mixed it up early, as quarterback Matt Krumpak completed 3-of-4 passes, while Firment and Joe Witkoski did the job on the ground.
McDonald marched 55 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 5-yard pass from Krumpak to Witkoski.
Wellsville answered on its first series, going 73 yards in 10 plays. The drive covered more than six minutes of the first quarter clock. The Tigers knotted the contest at 6-all as Zane Carter outjumped two defenders for a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ian Palmer.
The Blue Devils took advantage of two Wellsville penalties late in the second quarter to seize the lead. McDonald had the ball at its own 43, but a Wellsville holding penalty and a roughing the passer call on back-to-back plays moved the Blue Devils to the Tigers' 11.
Three plays later, Firment scored from 4 yards out to put McDonald up 12-6.
That's all the Blue Devils' defense needed. In the second half, McDonald posted a shutout, forcing an interception, two punts and holding on downs twice.
Although the Blue Devils missed two scoring opportunities in the third quarter inside the Wellsville 10, Williams was pleased with a strong fourth quarter that produced two scores.
"We were disappointed that we didn't score the first two times we were down there," he said. "But we were happy to get a couple scores there in the fourth to give us a little cushion.
"Our defense is getting better and better. We got a shutout last week and we held a pretty good offense to one touchdown tonight. We've treated these last three games as playoff games and we can't afford a loss next week against Jackson-Milton."