GENOA – Immediately after Genoa-Kingston running back Sal Lopez scored in overtime, coach Travis Frederick had made up his mind.
Trailing by one, Frederick made the decision to try a two-point conversion.
“We needed a win badly, for sure,” Frederick said. “I wouldn’t say it was desperation mode because you can go 4-5 and win your conference and still make the playoffs, but you don’t want to be 0-3. That’s just a steeper climb, especially in our conference.”
The call from Frederick paid off with G-K scoring the conversion for a 29-28 win over Richmond-Burton at home. Although the decision was made in an instant, the factors that went into it were numerous.
Late-game use of the two-point conversion isn’t common in the NFL or college football. Outside of Boise State’s “Statue of Liberty” conversion against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, it’s hard to pick out many instances of do-or-die conversion at the higher levels. But in high school, coaches often will roll the dice and gamble on one play.
Last year it was Sycamore’s Joe Ryan who called for a two-point conversion when the Spartans scored in the final minute to get within one point of Montini on the road in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. The conversion was successful, momentarily giving Sycamore a one-point lead before Montini kicked a game-winning field goal for an improbable win.
Part of the decision rests on the motivation and excitement it gives the players. Frederick said almost everybody on the sideline was offering up a play-call suggestion.
“It was everything from nervous to excited, so you just want to get it over with, see what happens,” senior lineman Connor Bankson said of the conversion. “Right when we got it in, everybody on our team went nuts.”
But deeper game factors played a part in the decision, as well. Frederick wasn’t 100 percent confident in his kicking game and also was hesitant to continue with an offense that had some turnover issues earlier in the game. He wanted the opportunity to finish it on his team’s own terms.
Richmond-Burton, with a strong running game, also might’ve been better suited for high school overtime rules, where teams alternate series starting at the opposition’s 10-yard line.
“They are the type of team that is built for 10 yards,” Frederick said. “They can just pound it out probaby for several series and put it in the end zone.”
So what play did Frederick call? He gave the ball back to Lopez, who already had gained 120 yards rushing on the night, and put the onus on his offensive line. They delivered, even if the play wasn’t executed perfectly.
“He didn’t hit the right hole,” Frederick said. “He kind of knifed it inside a little more than he should have, but he still got in there.”
G-K might very well have kicked the extra point and eventually come out on top, but Frederick’s decision and G-K’s win has the Cogs back in a positive state of mind and back to thinking about playoff possibilities.
“We all just kind of want to keep the ball rolling, keep winning,” Bankson said. “Everybody’s trying a lot harder now, putting a lot more effort in.”