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Grove City Scores in Final Minute for 38-31 Win

Written by: on Saturday, November 7th, 2009

GROVE CITY — When Westminster and Grove City College met head-on Saturday in a President’s Athletic Conference football matchup, it  took 60 minutes to complete the game, but less than three minutes to determine the final outcome.

When the issue was finally decided, the Wolverines walked off the field with a hard-fought 38-31 win over their backyard rivals.

After the two teams battled each other tooth-and-nail that resulted in a 31-all tie with less than three minutes left in regulation, the Wolverines took over on their own 20.

That is where GCC quarterback Andrew DiDonato performed his Mandrake the Magician act as he engineered a drive resulting in the game-winner.

Faced with a second-and-10 on the Titan 21 and time running out, DiDonato scrambled for his life before finding Luke O’Hara standing at the back of the end zone behind the Westminster defense. Slightly off balance, DiDonato fired a laser to O’Hara with 13 seconds left for the game-winner.

“It was a broken play and I was just running around looking for someone to break in the clear,” explained DiDonato. “That last drive, Senior Day and four years being here, that is my dream. I wanted the ball in my hands in a tie game with two minutes left and as it turned out, I couldn’t have written a better script for my last (home) game here at Grove City College.”

As for O’Hara finding the open space, it was just a matter of trying to help out his quarterback.

“I was more or less a backside receiver running a post,” said O’Hara about his role in the play. “When I saw Andrew start running around I just tried to find the open area. He (DiDonato) did a great job of keeping the play alive and he did a great job of finding the open receiver which happened to be me.”

Although GCC head coach Chris Smith has been through a lot of close games in his 26-year career, not too many have been more exciting than Saturday’s contest.

“Without a doubt,” said Smith about the game ranking high up on that scale. “They had a 10-0 lead and we only had the ball for four plays in the first quarter. I thought at that rate, we would have 16 plays in the game and that isn’t going to get it done. They (Westminster) could have easily been up 17-0 at halftime, but our kids did a good job of making adjustments and coming back. Getting those 10 points (in the second quarter) and tying it at halftime really were important.”

Although disappointed with the loss, Westminster coach Jeff Hand knew what to expect coming into the game.

“We knew coming in that it was going to be a great game today,” said Hand. “Those were two good teams out there and the bottom line is that they made plays and you have to give them credit for being able to do that.”

After the Titans dominated the opening period, Grove City showed some domination of its own as the Wolverines came back for a 10-10 tie at halftime on a touchdown run of two yards by Blaine Miller and a 24-yard field goal by Craig Bicehouse.

Although the Wolverines continued their domination of the game in the third period, they fell behind on the third play of the quarter when DiDonato had his pocket picked by Daniel Joyce who took the theft 37 yards to the “house” for a quick 17-10 Westminster lead.

But that is when the Wolverines went back to work on offense as they put together a pair of scoring drives for a 24-17 GCC lead heading into the final quarter.

The first drive covered 68 yards and took 12 plays, Miller scoring his second TD of the day with a 1-yard plunge to pay dirt.

After forcing a three-and-out for the Titans, the Wolverines took over on their own 29. Seven plays and 71 yards later,  Grove City went on top for the first time at 24-17 when Clayton Hall found  Luke O’Hara open for a 28-yard touchdown pass on a wingback option pass play.

Grove City extended its margin to 31-17 on the fifth play of the fourth period when the DiDonato-to-O’Hara connection worked for the first time in the game on a 36-yard scoring play, but the Titans battled back for two scores of their own for a 31-all tie, setting up DiDonato and Company for their winning heroics.

Westminster had one last-ditch chance to pull the game out of the fire, but GCC linebacker Jason Ferguson intercepted a Titan pass on the last play of the game.

The Wolverines will close out their 2009 season Saturday when they visit Alumni Stadium in Greenville to battle the Thiel Tomcats for the prestigious Mercer County Cup. Kickoff for that game is set for 1:30 p.m.

Key Offensive Performers: Blaine Miller’s 167 yards receiving on five catches, the most ever by a GCC running back…..Luke O’Hara only had three catches, but each went for a touchdown, tying him for a GCC single-game record…..Miller totaled 226 yards, 59 rushing to go along with his 167 through the air lanes…..Titan tailback Nick McKolosky rushed for 107 yards on 24 carries…..DiDonato completed 20 of 31 attempts for 365 yards as GCC outgained the Titans 498-282.
Key Defensive Performers: GCC linebacker Jason Ferguson finished with 10 tackles and an interception, his “pick” icing the GCC win on the final play of the game…..GCC junior safety Mark Rossol recorded nine tackles…..junior outside linebacker Zachery Boyd led the Titan defense with nine tackles including a sack.
The Big Plays: DiDonato’s pass to O’Hara for the game-winner with 13 seconds remaining in the game…..Clutch third-down pass completions by DiDonato, a 34-yard effort to wingback Clayton Hall and a 21-yard toss to tailback Blaine Miller…..Titan safety Daniel Joyce’s “pick six” gave the Titans a quick 17-10 lead…..GCC cornerback Randy Santina intercepted a pass in the end zone to turn Westminster away after the Titans had recovered a fumble on the Wolverine 21.….Hall’s 28-yard TD toss on a wingback option pass to O’Hara to give GCC its first lead at 24-17 late in the third period.
It was Over When: DiDonato hit O’Hara for 21 yards and the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game.

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