Cooper Cotterill’s twin touchdowns kept the Comets in front for most of the second half Friday against the North Ridgeville Rangers.
Just not the final minute.
Fortunes reversed as Rangers quarterback Colin Sullinger dismantled Amherst’s 14-12 lead, setting up on the one yard line with a throw to receiver Tyler Rowe and carrying the ball in himself on the next play.
The two-point conversion failed but the Comets were still left stunned, suddenly down 18-14 with just 26 seconds on the clock.
Ranger Nate Asp put to bed any notion of a comeback with an interception on a long bomb by Amherst QB Nick DeJesus with three seconds left.
Comets coach Bill Fishleigh was crestfallen.
“We tell them all the time we have to believe. We have to make one play, one sack, one interception. That turns the whole game around. That wins you the game. I was just hoping and praying for that one and it never came,” he said of the final two minutes.
Fishleigh spread around praise for key players, including Cotterill, who fell just shy of a 100-yard game on 21 carries.
“He’s a warrior. He’s one of our better guys. We want to give him the rock some more. He’s one that, you know, I’ll go to battle with him any day,” the coach said.
Cotterill and linebacker Todd Hastings are “like thunder and lightning,” Fishleigh said. “Todd’s a little bit heavier and Coop’s a little more streaky… Todd’s the heart and soul. When he’s rolling, the defense is behind him.”
The Rangers held a short-lived advantage in the second quarter, up 6-0 on the strength of a one-yard Jamir Malone TD.
Mark Harris had a 50-yard return for the Comets on the ensuing kickoff but the drive fizzled quickly. Before the half, though, Cotterill hustled a two-yard carry to the end zone on fourth down and Ryan Sturgeon added the point after for a 7-6 Amherst lead.
In the third quarter, North Ridgeville was denied at the line as the Comets defense swarmed a sweep on fourth and five to keep the one-point advantage.
Jaret Mead picked up 25 yards running with 45 seconds in the quarter to park Amherst just 10 yards from the goal. Cotterill punched it in three plays later to rise 14-6.
A 41-yard reception landed the Rangers on the six just minutes later Jack Lesniak pulled down a high floater for four yards to make it a 14-12 nail-biter.
Amherst’s Johnny Matakovich broke up a 30-yard lob by Sullinger, then a 15-yarder with three minutes to go.
The Comets took over at the 22 yard line, but backed up on fourth and four the Comets punted. The rest is history.
Fishleigh said his team, though 0-2, is on the rise.
“The kids do believe. It just comes down to us taking that next step,” he said. “Our boys are fighting and I’m just so proud of them.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Randy Meyers | Amherst News-Times Comets quarterback Nick Dejesus is sacked by the North Ridgeville defense in Friday’s hard-fought 18-12 loss.