Trailing 21-6 entering the fourth quarter of Saturday's Hockomock League battle with Taunton, the Oliver Ames football team had its back against a wall.
Luckily for the Tigers, they have a quarterback that can throw his way out of trouble.
"Nick Cidado played unbelievable in the late half of this game," Oliver Ames coach Jim Artz said.
The junior gunslinger made up for two interceptions he threw in the first half by throwing two 30-plus yard passes in the fourth quarter: One for 31 yards to the 1 yard line and another for a 36-yard touchdown as time wound down. The two receptions led OA to a 22-21 win over Taunton to improve to 5-1 on the year. Taunton dropped to 1-5.
Cidado first found freshman Franklin Holgate with 8:45 left in the game. Playing in his first varsity game due to some injuries to OA's receivers, Holgate quickly made an impact, and made a miraculous catch over his shoulder before stepping out of bounds. Artz called the catch "one of the best catches he's ever seen."
"I’ve been throwing with him all week, he’s been doing a good job, and I had faith in him after throwing with him all week," Cidado said.
Joey Tepper ran the ball in from the 1-yard line after Holgate's catch and Cidado found Greg Cummings for a 2-point conversion, making up for a missed PAT in the first half.
With the score 21-14, OA's defense held it's ground and gave the ball back to the offense with 4:29 remaining.
After advancing the ball to the 36-yard line thanks to some tough running from senior St. Clair Ryan, Cidado looked to take a shot down-field. And, he knew just who to look for.
The junior QB hit Cummings in stride.
"We’ve had a lot of chemistry over this year," Cidado said. "I just found him – he’s my man. With our other captain [Mike McMillan] that’s out, he stepped up big."
Cummings' touchdown brought the Tigers to within 1 point, and set up a gutsy decision from the OA coaching staff. It was the convincing of his players, though, that convinced Artz to "go for two."
"I wasn’t sold on it, but the kids kind of took it as a challenge and said ‘let's win it right now," Artz said. "I go how they go. If they feel confident and they feel they’re going to get it, I’m going to read them, so we did – we went for it. And sure enough, they pounded that in and made it look easy and made us look smart."
Behind the blocking of an amped-up offensive line and fullback Joey Tepper, Berksza walked into the end zone to give OA the lead with 2:35 left
A fumble recovery by Sean Kelly on Taunton's next possession sealed the game.
The win didn't come easily for OA. Behind a powerful wing-T offense led by Domingo Jenkins, Gerald Cortijo and Jamal Williams, Taunton rushed for 179 yards in the first half. Taunton's three touchdowns were all in the first half: a rushing score from quarterback Kyle Maderia, a run from Williams and a punt return from Cortijo.
"We kept trying to preach that Taunton’s skill kids are very good and if we don’t play the way we’re capable of, we’ll be in a lot of trouble very quickly and unfortunately, we were correct with what we said," Artz said.
OA's first half score came on a 47-yard screen pass from Cidado to Ryan.
"He’s just set a talented kid," Artz said of Ryan. "Physical force – he runs much bigger than he is. And, he’s just been such a great addition."
For Taunton, the fourth quarter turnaround will sting.
"It’s tough," Taunton coach Chris Geding said. "Nobody wants to lose. We’re just trying to learn how to win. What I told them was ‘we’ve come a leaps and bounds from where we were and that’s a very good football team, but we’ve got to close out games and we’re getting there.
The Tigers will travel to 4-2 Foxborough next week. According to Artz, they can't have another slow start.
"Our work is cut out for us and hopefully, we learned a lesson that we can’t do what we did here today," he said.