Packed with more ups and downs than a roller coaster ride at nearby Six Flags, the last 17 seconds of the Class 1 Show-Me Bowl was dramatic in every sense of the word.
And as if the waning seconds of the fourth quarter were not enough to have those involved reaching for the Maalox, then came the two overtime periods.
In the end, after battling each other for three hours and three minutes on the turf at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Nov. 28, the Orrick Bearcats came away with a gut-wrenching 34-28, double-overtime victory over the Thayer Bobcats, running Orrick's winning streak to 29 games and earning the Bearcats their second straight Show-Me Bowl championship over Thayer.
The contest ties for the longest in Missouri State High School Activities Association championship series history. Country Day beat Harrisonville 45-42 in two overtimes for the 2004 title.
"I know that Orrick won the ballgame, but I'm not sure that we lost it," Thayer Head Coach Billy Webber said afterwards. "They just managed to find a way to get one more (score) than we did. But our guys never quit, never gave up. Just an incredible ballgame."
Incredible is a pretty good way to sum up the last 17 ticks of regulation.
With the game locked at 14-all, Orrick (15-0) wrapped up an 11-play, 60-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown reception to Logan Eubank from Bearcat quarterback Joe Kaufman into the left side of the end zone with 17 seconds left on the fourth-quarter clock. Eubank tried to run in the 2-point conversion, but Josh Huckabee and Garrett Brewer teamed up to keep Eubank from crossing the goal line.
Still, things looked darker than dark for the Bobcats (12-2), who, after the ensuing kickoff by Orrick, had the ball at their own 38-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game, trailing 20-14.
That basically left time for just one play.
But Thayer didn't reach its second straight Show-Me Bowl by throwing in the towel when backed into a corner and faced with adversity.
Instead, quarterback Jacob Eckman rolled out and lobbed a pass to Lance Schneider near the right sideline. Schneider snagged the ball and worked his way past three defenders and outran the rest of the Bearcats for an amazing 62-yard touchdown with no time left on the clock.
Needing the extra-point for the win, the Bobcats came up short when the kick was low and blocked, sending the game into overtime tied at 20-all.
"On the film study that we had on them, they had blocked about five or six PATs in the three or four games we saw on them," said Webber. "That's the reason we had to make sure we had our proper personnel in for that instance in the game. I was concerned with getting everybody calmed down (after the touchdown) and lined up for the PAT."
Making Eckman's (seven-for-14, 147 yards passing) last-second TD pass to Schneider even more remarkable was the fact that Orrick defensive end Leslee Eubank slammed Thayer's QB to the turf on the play, leaving Eckman unable to see the ultimate result as he lay on the turf.
"I thought that either my guy caught it, or they picked it off. I wasn't sure," Eckman said after hearing the roar of the crowd.
"Right there, we're just looking to get a little bit of protection and throw the ball deep," Webber said. "They got some pressure and he (Eckman) scrambled and the ball came out short, but fortunately we had a guy there to make a play."
"We hit the kid (Eckman) on the pass and make him throw a balloon -- their kid (Schneider) goes up and makes the catch and goes for six," said Orrick Head Coach Pat Richard. "And then we got lucky on the extra-point."
And you might also say Orrick got lucky in the first overtime.
Kaufman, who at that point had not completed a pass in three attempts in the game, tossed a ball to tight end Matt O'Dell near the left sideline. The ball bounced off Matt O'Dell's chest and landed in the bread basket of Calvin O'Dell, a guard who was lined up at tight end on the play. Calvin O'Dell took the carom in for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Kaufman then ran the 2-point conversion in to give Orrick a 28-20 lead.
Then it was Thayer's turn to run a series on offense, starting at the 25-yard line.
On third-and-12 from the 27, Eckman hit Ryan Veatch with a big-time 18-yard pass over the middle of the field for a first down at the 9-yard line.
Three plays later, Huckabee (16 rushes, 55 yards) ran in from a yard out on third-and-goal for Thayer's answering touchdown. Needing a 2-point conversion to send the contest to a second overtime, the Cats got just that as Thayer's big offensive line opened enough of a hole for Eckman to squirt across the goal line to knot things at 28-all.
Thayer's offensive series in the second OT came to an end on third-and-8 from the 23 when Clayton Jones jumped in front of an Eckman pass for an interception.
Orrick ended the marathon title game with a 1-yard touchdown run from Kaufman on second-and-goal, giving the Bearcats a 34-28 victory and the Class 1 championship.
Kaufman, who carried the ball just 36 times all year for 152 yards, rushed 24 times for 90 yards and three TDs in the game.
"It was just a hard-fought game. Field position was critical, turnovers were critical and they just managed to find a way and we came up a hair short," Webber said.
And that critical field position and ability to hang onto the football reared its head right on the opening kickoff.
Orrick kicked a low, skipping kick off the fast track at the Dome, a kick that Thayer booted and the Bearcats' Leslee Eubank fell on at the Bobcat 30-yard line.
This miscue led to Orrick's first touchdown, a 4-yard TD from Kaufman at the 7:59 mark of the first. Kaufman toted the 2-point conversion across to stake the Bearcats to an 8-0 lead.
An Orrick turnover led to Thayer's first score of the game late in the second quarter. Eckman recovered a fumbled pitch from Kaufman to Kalija Rogers at the Bearcat 46-yard line.
Six plays later, Eckman hit Schneider with a nifty 32-yard touchdown on fourth-and-8 with 3:25 left until the half. Schneider had a monster afternoon, catching six balls for 129 yards and two TDs for Thayer. An unsportsman-like conduct penalty on the Bobcats pushed the 2-point try back to the 18-yard line and the attempt was stopped, leaving Orrick on top 8-6 at intermission.
Thayer's second turnover of the game, a fumble at the 36-yard line on the Bobcats' first series of the third quarter, resulted in another Orrick touchdown. Kaufman rushed in from three yards out at the 8:03 mark to extend the Bearcats' margin. Luke Martin stopped the 2-point attempt, leaving Orrick on top 14-6.
The turnover war evened itself on Orrick's next series, as freshman Jeremy Cabrales picked off a Kaufman pass attempt at the Bearcats' 22-yard line. This huge play gave the Bobcats a shot of adrenaline and Thayer didn't waste it.
Huckabee ran in from 10 yards out with 1:24 left in the third for his first TD of the game. Huckabee also carried the 2-point conversion across to lock the game at 14-all.
As it turns out, that wasn't nothing.
The last 17 seconds of regulation saw more fireworks than the Fourth of July, leaving the game to be decided by two overtime frames.
And in the that second OT, with both teams on the verge of falling out after such a physical contest, Orrick managed to have the last say and edge past Thayer in heart-stopping fashion, 34-28.