ATTICA - Goodness gracious, great balls of fire.
It certainly was a fiery halftime.
The Seneca East marching band played the Jerry Lee Lewis classic.
The majorettes twirled fire.
And coach Ed Phillips' Tiger team got fired up to enough to erase what was once a 26-0 deficit and take a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead.
However, when the smoke cleared, it was Fremont St. Joe's Zack Yeckley hitting Marcus Kerr on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 to play, for what was the winning score in a 34-27 Streak victory in the Midland Athletic League opener for both teams.
Yeckley's arm won his team the game, but his feet made the winning play happen. The quarterback scrambled out of pressure, and bought enough time for Kerr to get open in the back of the end zone.
"We were sprinting out right. I saw nothing; I did my reverse pivot. I looked around, I just kept my head downfield as much as I could. Then I saw this little buddy open," Yeckley said while patting Kerr on the shoulder pads. "I saw him wide open ... he goes up and catches it. That was great. That was great. That was something I'll never forget, it was awesome."
"I didn't know what to do," Kerr admitted. "I just saw the Seneca East DB, he just bailed and all I could do was wave my arms up in the air and just scream for the ball. I've never been so nervous in my life, but it worked out."
The winning pass came a few plays after the Streaks responded in a do-or-die situation. Facing fourth-and-18 on their own side of the field, Yeckley hit Luke Stierwalt for a 32-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
"Fourth-and-18, who am I going to? I'm going to my No. 1 target Luke Stierwalt," Yeckley said. "He's been there. Everybody knows we've been working. That's our 1-2 punch we got, him and Jordan Sessler. I went to him. I had all the faith in the world in him and we connected once again."
A few hours earlier it seemed like such a dramatic finish wouldn't be necessary for St. Joe. The Streaks took advantage of four first quarter Seneca East turnovers to build their 26-0 lead on four Yeckley touchdown passes (two to Sessler and one each to Stierwalt and Kerr).
At the end of the first frame, the Tigers had more turnovers (4) than offensive yards (1).
Then things started to turn.
"The bottom line when it's all said and done is, they took advantage of some opportunities that we gave them," Phillips said. "The story of the game is, we were down 26-0 and I told the kids, 'It's a new day. We're going to score one at a time; we're going to make this a game.' We have a theme every week and our theme was believe. And we came back because we believe in each other."
The Seneca East comeback began with an eight play, 78-yard drive that was punctuated by a 47-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Caudill to Kevin Moore.
Then it was the defense's turn to step up.
The Tigers kept St. Joe out of the end zone on two last second quarter drives that ended with failed fourth down attempts from the 11 and 7-yard lines, as the teams went into the locker room with St. Joe up 26-6.
"The avalanche was going the wrong way in the first quarter," Phillips said. "Then we kind of steadied in the second quarter, then we started pushing the snow downhill at them."
Mason McWilliams ran the second half kickoff back to the St. Joe 32. Five plays later, Caudill hit McWilliams from six yards out to get Seneca East within 26-12.
Alex Scheiber picked off Yeckley on St. Joe's next series, and the Tigers kept the momentum in their favor with Caudill and Moore connecting for another score, this time from 43 yards out. A two-point conversion brought the score to 26-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
Caudill finished the night 14-of-25 passing for 214 yards. Moore caught five passes for 118 yards and the two scores.
"The biggest adjustment we made is in the momentum ... When you're out there and everything's falling your way, you're king of the world. And we just had to change that momentum, and we did," Phillips said. "It's one thing to change it and get a score or two and make it respectable. It's another thing to change it and put yourself in a position where you woulda, coulda, shoulda won the game."
Caudill finally drew his team even with 8:30 to play on a two-yard touchdown run. Isaac Phillips knocked through the extra point to put Seneca East ahead 27-26.
"The amazing thing is that we have all those turnovers and we give them the short field and we come back and we have an opportunity to win," Phillips said, "and I'm going to say this right now, we come back, we get ahead in that last drive, they had to come back and win it, that's outstanding on their part too. I'm not going to take any credit away from them. At the end of the night, they won the ball game."
Seneca East got the ball back off another Scheiber interception and got in position to ice the game. With just over three-and-a-half minutes to play, Seneca East faced a fourth down on St. Joe's 30. A pass that would've been a first down was dropped, giving St. Joe new life.
"Couple things happen at the end of the game when they happened in my head I'm thinking 'Against a good football team, when you got them down, you can't let them get up,'" Phillips said. "You can't give them that second chance."
St. Joe took that second chance and made the most of it. Two minutes of gametime later, the Streaks were back in front. This time for good.
"We got together and we said 'boys, we got to do this. There's no looking back now,'" Yeckley said. "'We're 2-1, we got to get this first win in the league. This is going to be one of the tougher teams in the MAL.' But we got together and we were like 'this is the time, we got to do it. All the offseason work comes down to right here.' We did it."
"I'm just very happy for these kids, especially these seniors," St. Joe coach Scott Knisely said. "It's their first league game and to respond like we did tonight, we had our ups and we had our downs, but in football, a win's a win. And were very happy with the way our kids played."
Now sitting at 3-1, 0-1 MAL, Phillips said his team is on a mission.
"The other underlying thing we want to take out of this is that we still believe in each other and this team's on a mission now. ... They're on a mission like they weren't before," he said. "They're going to come out starting tomorrow morning and they're going to do what they have to do to take care of the things that cost us the game tonight."