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Wilmington's Mike Wolfe (13) is stopped by a host of Sterling-Newman Central Catholic defence players and Wilmington lost 28-26 at the IHSA class 3A playoffs held at Wilmington, Illinois on Saturday, November 10, 2012. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Newman Central Catholic built a two-touchdown lead mid-way through the third quarter only to see host Wilmington mount a furious comeback over the last quarter and a half that came up just short as the Comets defeated the Wildcats 28-26 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs Saturday night.
Newman used a balanced running attack throughout the game led by Nick Rude (18 carries, 53 yards) Jake Snow (9 carries, 43 yards), Brian Bahrs (11 carries, 37 yards) and Masion Bittner (25 yards rushing, 53 yards receiving, TD) coupled with timely passing to earn the victory. Chris Tworek (16 carries, 152 yards, TD) and Mike Wolfe (12 carries, 66 yards, 2 rec, 47 yards, TD) led Wilmington. Wolfe also had a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown.
“This game had everything tonight,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. “Both teams played their hearts out and the momentum just kept turning and turning.”
Newman (12-0) took the first lead in the game on its second offensive possession when Bittner turned a broken fourth-and-four play into gold, avoiding several defenders in the backfield and scampering 25 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 1:44 left in the first quarter.
“I didn’t think that the play was going to work but I kept running and got a couple of good blocks and we got one,” Bittner said.
The Comets defense then stood up and made a play as Tanner Cole recovered a fumble and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown to extend the Comets lead to 14-0 with 9:39 remaining until half.
Wilmington (9-3) had been held in check until they ran a double handoff that Tworek broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7 at half.
After a quick three-and-out by the Wildcats, Snow’s 14-yard touchdown made it 20-7 with 7:27 left in the third. Wilmington quarterback Sean Lairomatis connected with Wolfe for a 40-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt to close to 20-14.
Bittner’s 53-yard catch set up Newman’s fourth score and a 28-14 lead. Wilmington showed no quit and great resolve as Wolfe then blocked a punt by Newman that was recovered in the end zone by Nick Anderson that made it 28-20 with 10:50 remaining.
Tworek’s 8-yard touchdown run drew the Wildcats to 28-26 with 1:20 left in the game, however the Comets defense rose up again and the subsequent two-point attempt was stopped a yard short. Newman recovered the ensuing on-sides kick that all but doomed Wilmington.
“We had a shot to win but we made some uncharacteristic mistakes and the turnovers and miscommunication on coverages just made it seem like we were fighting uphill all game,” Wilmington coach Jeff Reents said.