It was a golden opportunity for Walsh Jesuit football.
One stop and the Warriors could have perhaps regained the momentum they had lost earlier in the game.
Down 15-13 to Toledo Whitmer early in the fourth quarter Aug. 26, the visitors had the Panthers right where they wanted them: Facing third-and-17 on their own 25-yard-line.
Unfortunately for Walsh head coach Scott Beigie and his troops, Whitmer quarterback Anthony Coates completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to give his team a 22-13 lead.
"That was huge," Beigie said.
Walsh kept fighting, but Whitmer would hang one for a 29-20 win.
After spotting Whitmer an early field goal, Walsh owned the first half, specifically the second quarter. First, sophomore wide receiver Tommy Cummings caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Weitman.
"It was Tommy's first varsity football game," Beigie said. "He's earned the chance to get some playing time, and he did a phenomenal job. Alex put a nice touch on the ball kind of toward the back of the end zone. He put it in the perfect spot."
Soon after, senior safety Alec Wallace returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.
"Alec made an awesome, one-handed grab on Whitmer's sideline. He just snatched it out of the air," Beigie said. "He then reversed field and started heading toward our bench on the opposite sideline. He got some fabulous blocks by his teammates and then it was free sailing to the end zone."
The Warriors led 13-3 at halftime.
"We were playing tremendously. Things were going pretty darn well," said Beigie. "You can't live on what you did in the past, though. You've got to use it. Learn from it -- good or bad -- and move forward and focus on what's in front of you right now. I told the kids, 'It's 0-0 in our world and we've got to come out in the second half like it is 0-0 and not like we have the lead."
Unfortunately, Whitmer came out of halftime on fire, as two touchdown runs gave the Panthers the their 15-13 lead.
"Whitmer has kind of an up-tempo offense," Beigie said. "They scored their first touchdown pretty quickly. Then they made a nice call and recovered an onside kick right away and scored their second touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. So that was a huge momentum swing."
Walsh hung tough, however, but then came Whitmer's aforementioned "big play" that stretched its lead to nine points. On the Warriors' ensuing drive, several running plays, a pass interference call and a 27-yard pass play from Weitman to senior slot player Steve Walko had Walsh in buiness. On fourth-and-goal, senior Kamari Spencer's one-yard touchdown grab from Weitman that cut the Whitmer lead to 22-20 with about 4:30 remaining.
The Panthers, though, drove right down the field. Larry Patterson shut the door on the visitors when he raced 37 yards for a touchdown with about a minute to go.
"We had five of our defensive starters out by that winning drive due to heat-related cramps and other injuries. Plus, we had a lot of guys who were going both ways," said Beigie. "Whitmer, on the other hand, has a wealth of talent and they utilize it extremely well. They have pretty much a two-platoon system across the board, so they just kind of wore us down."
Beigie was happy with the performance of Weitman, who completed 9-of-18 passes for 103 yards with an interception to go with his two TD passes.
"Alex had a lot of pressure on him. He was sacked three times," the coach said. "He did a good job of standing in there. He didn't get rattled. He stepped up and made some plays."
Junior fullback David Blanchard rushed 10 times for 52 yards.
"We rely on David to kind of get the tough yardage and he did just that," Beigie said. "He kept his head down and plowed right up the middle of a fantastic defense on multiple occasions. He got pounded pretty hard."
Overall, Beigie was more than pleased with his team's effort.
"Our kids fought like hell," he said. "It was one of those games in which you walk away frustrated that you couldn't get the victory, but the way they played and the way they fought, I couldn't have been prouder.
Walsh Jesuit was scheduled to play at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary Sept. 2, but the result was not available at press time.
Next up for the Warriors is a game Sept. 9 at Columbus Bishop Watterson. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.