by Beau Wicker
WALTON — If Cass’ great comeback in the second half wasn’t enough to enthrall fans in attendance at Owens Memorial Field Friday night, they were treated to five thrilling overtime sessions.
Unfortunately for Cass fans, their Kings were edged in an epic regional battle against Andrean, 67-66, in five overtimes.
Class 2A No. 9-ranked Andrean (11-2) will host No. 5 Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (9-4) next Friday for a semistate game. No. 7 Cass finishes 11-2.
The Kings couldn’t stop Andrean junior quarterback Matt DeSomer in the overtime sessions, and their special teams weren’t equal to the task throughout.
Four of DeSomer’s 10 runs during the overtimes went for touchdowns.
DeSomer finished with 209 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 27 carries. He was 5 of 12 passing for 99 yards with two more TDs.
“We couldn’t stop him,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “The quarterback took the game over late in the fourth quarter and we did not have an answer. We tried to change defenses a couple times, and he’s a player and we couldn’t get him down.
“I thought he was special coming into the game on film. He has a real knack of running with a low pad level and very good balance, and he throws the ball well enough you’ve got to cover everybody. He’s as good as anyone we’ve played this year, for sure.”
The Kings had plenty of stars on the night. They were virtually unstoppable in the five overtime sessions as well, and they had a great second-half comeback to force overtime, overcoming a 28-12 halftime deficit.
They held Andrean to just three points in the second half by controlling the ball on offense and forcing turnovers on defense. The Kings took a 31-28 lead with 3:32 left in regulation on a 1-yard TD run by Garrett Riley. But the extra point was blocked in what turned out to be a game-saving play by the 59ers.
Andrean tied the game at 31-all on a 37-yard field goal by Matt Anderson with :34 left. The kick was an ugly line drive that might have gotten a little help from the wind to just make it over the crossbar.
Cass had another chance to win the game with an extra point in the second overtime, but again the kick was blocked.
“We had our chance, special teams really hurt us,” Mannering said. “But that’s just the nature of the game. Kudos to them, they made plays. They blocked the extra point. Unfortunately it didn’t fall our way.
“For some reason our extra-point team was just horrible [Friday]. We couldn’t buy one. We missed the opening one, which changes the whole complexion of your strategy. That was a struggle. Our 2-point plays weren’t much better.”
The Kings missed on their 2-point try in the fifth OT. After a false start penalty moved them five yards back, a pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
Two plays later, DeSomer took the ball in from 5 yards out, and Anderson ended it with the extra point.
The Kings were called for an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 76 yards, which included a horsecollar penalty on Luke Knutson that negated a 10-yard sack on the first play of the first overtime when he was flagged corralling DeSomer.
The Kings entered the game having lost four starters due to season-ending injuries, and that may have cost them depth-wise as the defense appeared to wear down as the marathon contest wore on.
“We get into the fifth overtime, we’re playing six players both ways there, so we don’t have a lot of legs left,” Mannering said. “But even with that, they made plays. We’re going for 2 and we jump offsides and now we’ve got 7 yards to make and we don’t make a play on that.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We had a tremendous season, unfortunately this is going to be how it ends in the tournament. We fell short.”
Cass outrushed Andrean 398-278 in yardage for the game.
Cass quarterback Sheldon Slusser rushed for 65 yards and four TDs on 14 attempts. He added an 18-yard TD pass to Drew Shepherd on a fourth-down play in the third OT that lifted the Kings out of a dire situation.
Payton Young had a team-high 75 yards rushing on eight carries, and Shepherd had 70 yards on eight attempts.
Garrett Riley had 59 yards rushing and two TDs on 15 carries, and Blake Cain had 39 yards rushing and two TDs on five attempts. Gabe Welch added 56 yards and a TD on 11 totes.
Knutson recovered a fumble late in the third quarter that led to a quick score. Young caused a DeSomer fumble that Slusser recovered in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead score.
The Kings jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. But they had a 1-yard punt and then lost a fumble that helped Andrean score 28 unanswered points in the second quarter.
It was a classic in which the Kings came up just short — similar to a 54-53 loss in two overtimes to Luers in a 2009 regional. Luers went on to win the state title that year.
Luers defeated No. 4 Tipton 22-12 Friday. With the win Luers will move up to Class 3A next season due to the IHSAA’s new classification rule, which factors in tourney success over a two-season span.