“Our season was on the line. I told Adam Brown I was going to get this.” — Theo Hall.
Oct. 23, 2008: Mercyhurst 24, Edinboro 21
“Probably the toughest loss of my career.” — Trevor Harris
EDINBORO — Four years ago, Mercyhurst joined the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference where Edinboro was an established power.
“Edinboro has always been a big presence in the PSAC,” said Travis Rearick, who was a freshman quarterback at Mercyhurst in 2008.
That season, the Scots were led by one of the best quarterbacks to every play NCAA Division II — Trevor Harris. It was Edinboro’s best team under head coach Scott Browning.
“Offensively, we could be balanced,” said Harris, who was a junior in 2008. “We could run the football. We could throw the football and we could it from any different angle on the field.
“We really felt comfortable with everything we were doing. I think we were the best team in region my junior year. I really do, between us and Cal, in 2008.”
The Scots came into that game with one loss to California (Pa.), 35-31, and was looking to continue their playoff push against the underdog Lakers.
“That was our coming out party in the PSAC,” Rearick said. “It was a big opportunity for us.”
Having it on Thursday night was a plus for the Lakers.
“We had just lost on the previous Saturday to IUP somewhere around 50-10, but it wasn’t that close,” said Mercyhurst coach Marty Schaetzle, whose Lakers actually lost 42-10 at IUP.
“We were licking our wounds. I don’t think our guys even thought about the opponent as much as getting back out on the field and playing.”
The Scots were the favorites, but they found themselves not only in a dogfight, but down 24-21 after Richard Stokes’ 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Harris didn’t practice all week because of cracked ribs and a bruised lung. For someone who took ever rep as if it was his last, Harris wasn’t nearly as prepared as he’d like to have been.
“I was a little nervous going into the game playing against a 3-3-5 defense for the first time in my career,” Harris said. “I was pretty banged up for that game.”
However, with two minutes, 49 seconds left, Harris led Edinboro on a drive that reached the Mercyhurst 8-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal he found tight end Denayne Dixon in the end zone, but Dixon dropped the ball.
“We dropped a touchdown pass,” Browning said.
So on fourth, Browning sent out Alex Romanias for a 25-yard field goal. Harris left the field wondering what might have been, what he could have done and what he would have done on fourth down.
“I remember distinctly coming out of the game and telling Coach Browning I wish we would have went for it,” Harris said. “It’s obviously the correct call. You have to kick and play for overtime and play the odds.”
On the other side, Theo Hall already knew what was about to go down.
“Theo knew he was going to get it,” said Trevor Kennedy, who was a freshman on the 2008 Mercyhurst team. “There was no doubt in his mind. After it had happened, it was unbelievable because he said, ‘I’m going to block the field goal.’ ”
A senior cornerback, Hall had already intercepted Harris to set up a touchdown drive and returned a kickoff 49 yards to set up another touchdown drive.
“I thought about that (interception) for probably 12 months until we played them again,” Harris said.
Hall still had one more big play left in him.
“Our season was on the line,” said Hall after the game. “I told Adam Brown I was going to get this.”
“If you have the confidence you’re going to to do it, your chances are pretty good,” Schaetzle said. “Real genuine confidence and he felt really confident he could get a piece of that kick and he did.”
With 23 seconds left, Hall raced in and blocked the field goal to stun the Scots at Sox Harrison Stadium.
“I remember thinking we got this field goal,” said Edinboro senior Brian Roberts, who was a redshirt for the 2008 season. “It’s what we do in practice every day and then all the sudden, you saw it blocked. It hits that pit in your stomach and you’re like, oh, what are we going to do now.”
Harris saw it as more than just a loss.
“I remember thinking this could end our season,” Harris said. “We could miss the playoffs now. That was the first thought in my head.”
The Lakers stormed on the field and celebrated much to the dismay of the Scots.
“They were out there jumping on the ‘E’ after they won,” said Harris about the Mercyhurst players running to the middle of the field and jumping on the red ‘E’ in the center of it.
“That was tough to see there.”
The loss stuck with Harris all summer.
“In the offseason, I did three extra reps of every exercise I did because we lost by three to them,” Harris said. “That was constantly on my mind because we lost by three to Mercyhurst.”
The next season, Edinboro won at Mercyhurst, 32-22, and reached the playoffs, but Harris still has haunting memories of the 2008 defeat to the Lakers.
“It was probably the toughest loss of my career,” Harris said.
– Duane Rankin