By Tom Williams
As he awaited Mike O’Horo’s final pass to float into his arms, Boardman senior wide receiver Jujuan Forte admitted he felt “nervous.”
Moments later, he was all smiles after his 18-yard reception in the end zone gave the Spartans a 20-14 double-overtime win over Ursuline on Thursday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
“You’ve got to concentrate on the ball to make the catch,” Forte said of being alone. “It feels good.”
The Spartans (5-3) rallied to force overtime with an 87-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. O’Horo’s arm engineered the 11-play drive and he capped it with a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
“Jujuan Forte had one heck of a game,” said O’Horo, who passed for 178 yards. “He made so many key catches that were broken plays, just coming back to the ball and going up and fighting for the ball.
“It was a great team win.”
Boardman head coach Joe Ignazio admitted his view of the winning play was less than spectacular.
“The way our kids moved up on the sideline, I actually couldn’t see it until he came down with it,” said Ignazio, adding of Forte, “tremendous kid, great athlete.”
Ursuline (2-6) had the Spartans’ backs against the wall when quarterback Jared Fabry scored his second touchdown with 9:21 remaining for a 14-7 lead. On third-and-9, Fabry broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown.
“Their record is not [accurate],” O’Horo said of the Irish. “They have one of the hardest schedules in the state.”
The Spartans didn’t quit.
“We thought we had them gassed a little so [we] sped up our tempo,” Ignazio said. “Our team showed a ton of resiliency. We were out of timeouts but moved the ball well.”
One of the biggest receptions came on fourth-and-4 at the Ursuline 44 when O’Horo hit Alex Huzicka for a 7-yard gain. Two plays later, he connected with Domonhic Jennings for 11 more yards, following that with a 23-yard connection with Huzicka.
“Our team goal at a minimum is to always make the playoffs,” O’Horo said. “To keep that alive is good.”
This week, Boardman was ranked seventh in the Division II, Region 7 computer playoff ratings. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
“With the exception of two drives, we played very well on defense,” Ursuline head coach Larry Kempe said. “People will look at this comment and say that I’m nuts but I think we’re really starting to gel defensively.
“We had a chance for a pick on the tying drive, we didn’t get,” Kempe said. “We have to do a better job of stopping them.”
Defense dominated most of the first half, with both squads producing big plays to keep the game scoreless.
The Spartans had the ball at the Ursuline 12, but a holding penalty and then a sack by Ursuline’s Nick Petro forced the Spartans to punt, with Forte downing the ball at the Ursuline 1.
On the next play, Joe Floyd broke through the center of the line and ran 62 yards. The threat ended when Maurice Pickard intercepted Fabry in the end zone.
A facemask penalty had the Irish at the Boardman 21. But five plays later, Jared Fabry’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Maurice Pickard and returned to the 34.
The Irish were driving in the second quarter, with a second-and-goal at the Boardman 2. An unsportmanlike conduct penatly sent the Irish back to the 16. Brandon Freer’s 35-yard field-goal attempt was short, keeping the game scoreless.
The Spartans responded with a 12-play, 80 yard drive capped by quarterback Mike O’Horo, on fourth-and 1, to escaped up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:45 remaining in the half.
James Phillips returned the kick 59 yards to the Boardman 26. Three plays later, Fabry scored from the 7 and Freer’s conversion kick tue the game 7-7.