By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
The South Range Raiders have had an infatuation with fantastic finishes this season.
The Raiders did it again Friday night on the road at Springfield when Phillip Arsuffi caught a 43-yard pass in stride from quarterback David Buzzocco with no time left on the clock to give South Range a 23-17 Inter Tri-County Tier One victory.
The winning play was set up when the Raiders (5-1, 3-0) held the Tigers to a three-and-out series in the final minute and forced a punt. That gave South Range the ball at its own 43 with 20 seconds remaining in the game and the score tied 17-17.
A running play by Arsuffi for 13 yards and a 1-yard scramble by Buzzacco with seven seconds left forced South Range to call its final timeout.
With overtime a viable option, South Range coach Dan Yeagley decided one last try for a win was his best option.
When South Range lined up for the last play, Springfield coach Sean Guerriero desperately tried to call for a timeout but the Raiders got the play off and Buzzacco put a perfectly thrown ball right in the arms of Arsuffi who had beat his defenders at the goal line.
“I told my line to give me some time,” said Buzzacco of the game-winning toss. “I had faith in [Arsuffi] if I could make a good pass that that he would make the catch.
“Once I saw the safety bite on play action, I knew we had a chance.”
Arsuffi said he saw the ball all the way but thought it might be a little short.
“When I saw that it was going over the defenders’ arms I knew I had to grab the ball,” Arsuffi said. “It feels great. You don’t always want to win like that at the end but it feels great when you do.”
The bitter rivals played a game that will be talked about for a long time.
South Range broke out to a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Floyd Kenney and an 18-yard tally by Arsuffi.
Springfield (3-3, 1-2) scored right before half on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rusty Kimble from quarterback Brad Ferraro to make the score 14-7 at halftime.
Springfield tied the game in the third quarter on another scoring pass from Ferraro to Lucas Christman that covered 29 yards and then South Range grabbed the lead back at the end of the third quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Ethan Witmer.
In the fourth quarter, T.J. Bobosky recovered a South Range fumble and that set up a 30-yard field goal by Jake Noble with 3:15 left in the contest.
“Our kids came out and fought,” said Guerriero. “We really stepped it up tonight and and I can’t say enough about our effort.
“The score before halftime got us back in the game and I thought we played well defensively the entire second half.”
Yeagley could only smile after the game.
If playing for overtime was on his mind in the final seconds Yeagley wasn’t saying.
“We never quit and we went for the win because these players believe we can win if they keep playing hard.”