Bishop Gorman’s football team was in need of a miracle Friday night.
Bubba Bolden provided it.
The senior blocked a potential game-winning field goal in the second overtime, and when Biaggio Ali Walsh punched in the 2-point conversion in the third overtime, the Gaels escaped with a 25-24 home victory over St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida).
“That was the last play, and it was to win the ballgame, so I just told my teammates I’m going to do the best I can to jump over the pile and block it,” Bolden said.
The Raiders (3-2), ranked ninth in the nation by USA Today, stopped top-ranked Gorman (6-0) on its possession in the second overtime. After two 1-yard runs, Aquinas sent out the field-goal unit on third down for a 25-yard attempt. But the 6-foot-3-inch Bolden leaped high and got a fingertip on the ball. The kick fluttered off the crossbar, forcing a third overtime.
The Raiders took a 24-17 lead on a 1-yard TD run by Mike Epstein and the ensuing extra point on their possession in the third overtime.
Gorman needed just one play to answer, with Tate Martell connecting with Jalen Nailor on a 10-yard scoring pass to make the score 24-23.
Gorman lined up to kick the point-after, but Aquinas was called for encroachment, moving the ball inside the 2-yard line.
The Gaels immediately sent their offense onto the field to go for 2, and Ali Walsh took the pitch and crossed the goal line to give Gorman its 45th consecutive victory.
Bishop Gorman 2-pt conversion for the win. Incredible game. pic.twitter.com/rkhsG3WMxI
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) October 1, 2016
“Once we scooted up a little bit closer, we decided to go for 2,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “And I thought our offensive coordinator called a great play, and it worked.”
Bolden intercepted two passes in regulation, including one in the fourth quarter that appeared to give the Gaels the momentum. The Raiders led 7-3 and had driven to the Gorman 11. But on second-and-7, Aquinas chose to go with a trick play, with receiver Michael Harley taking the handoff on an end around, then firing a pass intended for star receiver Trevon Grimes in the end zone.
But Bolden picked off the pass to halt the drive and steal the momentum.
“The turnovers were huge, and I thought honestly this guy (Bolden) played a great game,” Sanchez said. “I thought our defense played tremendous, absolutely tremendous.”
Grimes, who has committed to Ohio State, also injured his left knee on the play and was later taken off the field on a stretcher with the knee in a splint.
Bolden’s interception set up a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that gave Gorman the lead.
Martell capped the drive by lofting a perfect 16-yard TD pass to Brevin Jordan over Aquinas linebacker Anthony Solomon to make it 10-7 with 7:35 to play.
But even without their top offensive option, the Raiders fought back to tie the game on a 24-yard field goal by Marco Salani as time expired in regulation.
Aquinas scored on the first play of the first overtime when Jake Allen hit Jordan Merrell with a swing pass, and Merrell dove across the goal line.
Gorman was down to its final play on its first overtime possession, facing fourth-and-goal from the 7. But Martell fired a strike to a sliding Nailor over the middle for the tying score.
The Gaels faced fourth down again in the second overtime with the ball inside the 1. Gorman chose to give the ball to linebacker Farrell Hester, who had lined up at fullback, and he was stuffed at the goal line on his first carry of the season.
Both teams were outstanding defensively. The Gaels limited Aquinas to 57 yards of offense in the first half.
“It just made me play harder,” Bolden said of the strong Aquinas defense. “I just had to come out and put the team on my back so we could come out with the win.”
While Grimes had consistently gotten a step on Gorman’s defensive backs, Allen was unable to connect with him downfield. But the Raiders were able to take advantage of their first trick play, when Harley took a pitch from Allen and fired a 53-yard scoring strike to Grimes for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 8:58 to go in the third quarter.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters