“I was nervous. I remember smiling back at him, trying to pretend I wasn’t nervous.” — Travis Rearick
Oct. 16, 2010: Mercyhurst 22, Edinboro 21 (OT)
“The rest is history.” — Trevor Kennedy
EDINBORO — Two years after winning in dramatic fashion at Edinboro, Mercyhurst was back at Sox Harrison Stadium fresh off a 28-27 thriller at Indiana (Pa.).
On this day, the Lakers forced overtime on an Gerald Anderson 9-yard run with 59 seconds left in regulation.
“We were down like the whole second half,” said Travis Rearick, who was a starting junior quarterback at Mercyhurst in 2010. “So we were finally excited to get back into it.”
In overtime, Edinboro took first possession and scored on an Cody Harris 1-yard run to go up 21-14. The Lakers answered with Rearick finding Terrence Coon for an 11-yard scoring pass.
Mercyhurst lined up for a PAT to force a second overtime.
Then flags flew.
“They were going to kick an extra point,” Edinboro coach Scott Browning said. “We jumped offsides so it moved (the ball) up a yard and a half.”
A yard and a half closer, the Lakers decided to go for two — and the win.
“It was a momentum thing,” Lakers coach Marty Schaetzle. “It wasn’t a matter of that the play was going to be any better from 1-1/2 or three yards out. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
“After the penalty, in my head, I’m like, Coach Schaetzle is probably thinking about going for it,” said Trevor Kennedy, who was a junior receiver for the 2010 Lakers. He won the first of two PSAC West Offensive Player of Year awards that season.
“All the thoughts are going through your head,” Mercyhurst senior L.J. Stevens said. “If we get this, it will be great. If we don’t, it’s going to be a heartbreaking loss.”
Rearick recalls Schaetzle asking Anderson, Kennedy and himself what should the Lakers do.
“He was like, ‘Well, what do you guys think?’ ” Rearick said. “And we’re all just smiling. We’re like, ‘You think we should go for it, Coach?’ He said ‘Yeah, it’s just game.’ We were like, OK.”
“I was nervous. I’m remember smiling back at him, trying to pretend I wasn’t nervous. He said it’s just a game. I’m like yeah, but we really want to win it, though. I tried to play calm for him.”
One play for all the marbles.
“To me, it was like, alright game on,” Scots senior Kenny Pettis said. “We are going to see who is going to win right now.”
Taking the ball on the left hash to have all the right field, Mercyhurst went to its bread-and-butter play.
“That was a go-to play that year be it Trevor was our go-to guy,” Stevens said. “No. 1 receiver in the nation.”
Edinboro had seen it before on film and in person.
“We ran it the week prior to that against IUP,” Rearick said. “They had to have known it was one of our favorite plays on the goal-line. … The year prior to that, (Edinboro) beat us at Mercyhurst in 2009, but we ran that play for a touchdown.”
The Scots were prepared for it.
“The amazing thing, and if you talk to the defensive players that were on the field that day, our defensive staff and our defense actually practiced that play,” Browning said. “The sprint out and throw it to the flat. We had worked on that.”
“The throw was where either Trevor Kennedy was going to catch it or no one was going to catch it,” Browning said. “It was a tremendous throw and great catch. It was just a well-executed play. They couldn’t have executed it better.”
First Kennedy went on motion from left to right to figure out Edinboro’s defensive strategy.
“The guy was pressed up,” he said. “I’m thinking, man coverage. Awesome. That was confirmed by when I went in motion and he chased me.”
That “guy” was Pettis, a standout safety who was playing cornerback in place of Branden Williams, who was out with a season-ending knee injury.
Seeing Pettis follow him in motion tipped Kennedy off that the pass was coming to him.
“Just catch the ball,” Kennedy said.
James Jackson, one of the best cornerbacks in the PSAC, was a true freshman starting opposite of Pettis. Talented, but inexperienced, Jackson wasn’t on the same page with Pettis in defending the play.
“It was a miscommunication between me and the other corner,” Pettis said. “So I just tried to fight through the pick. They set a pick on me.”
“It’s a hard play to defend because a lot of teams are in man down there,” Rearick said. “If you do any kind of snag combinations and you get all this crisscrossing going on down on the goal-line, it’s hard to stay with your man. They got caught up.”
All Pettis could do was pray Kennedy couldn’t handle Rearick’s pass.
“I hope he’d drop it,” Pettis said. “I was thinking I’m not going to get there running through somebody. I was kind of hoping the other corner saw that and dropped off. He did what he was supposed to do and stay on the guy. I just feel like maybe had I gotten through, probably would have been a little different story.”
Rearick took the snap, rolled right, got a block from Anderson and saw Kennedy wide open. Ever the thinker, Rearick wondered how he’d throw the ball.
“Trevor was wide open,” Rearick said. “It didn’t have to be a perfect throw. Sometimes those are tough passes. You see a guy wide open and you go well, do I try to lead him perfectly? Throw it where he’s at now? Does he have enough space?”
Some couldn’t watch the play unfold.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Edinboro senior Brian Roberts said. “I wasn’t even watching it. I had my eyes closed the whole time. I just heard the crowd on their side scream so I knew they scored.”
“I turned around,” said Mercyhurst junior defensive end Dustin Galich, an McDowell High graduate. “I can’t watch that. I listened for the crowd. I put my head down. I was nervous.”
Kennedy had no other choice but to see the play. He was the main attraction of it.
“I saw (the ball) in the air and I was like just don’t drop it, just don’t drop it,” Kennedy said.
“The rest is history,” Kennedy said.
Let the celebration begin.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Kennedy said. “Just laying there. My teammates piling on me. No noise outside other than my teammates. It’s like, oh my God. Did this just really happen. After we got up and celebrated, it was like, this is for real.”
The Lakers upset No. 3 California (Pa.) the following week en route to winning their first-ever PSAC title in just their third season in the conference.
“It was definitely huge,” said Mercyhurst senior left guard Kevin Poropat about the Edinboro win. “Just extra motivation for us. We knew we could be one of the best and beat the best. We knew the upcoming schedule was going to be tough, but that catapulted us to the next week and we just kept it going with that momentum.”
In defeat, Edinboro wondered what would have happened had it stopped that two-point pass.
“Had we held on and beaten Mercyhurst that day, I think it could have been as big a win for us going the other way,” Browning said. “I think it was a very pivotal game for both of us.”
On Saturday, The Lakers are returning to Edinboro still in contention for a spot in the PSAC championship game.
The Scots are 3-4, but can get back to .500, play spoiler and end Mercyhurst’s recent reign over them in their own stadium.
“This year is important for us to beat them here because we’ve never beaten them,” Pettis said.
And Pettis can stop thinking about that final play in 2010.
“Two years later, it still gets brought up,” Pettis said. “It’s still talked about. Still in the midst of everything. Two whole years later, I want to redeem myself.”
– Duane Rankin