McLean County never blinked.
In one of the most riveting KHSAA playoff football games ever contested, bar none, the never-say-die Cougars pulled off one of the most epic upsets — stunning heavily favored Owensboro Catholic 37-36 in a heartstopping second-round Class 2-A affair at Steele Stadium.
District champion McLean County (8-4), which has won eight of nine since starting 0-3, advances to the third round of the playoffs next Friday at Somerset (11-1), which edged host Lexington Christian 28-26 in its second-round game.
It was the Cougars' first victory over the Aces since 1992.
"Resilient, resilient, resilient," said ecstatic McLean County coach Zach Wagner, when asked to describe his squad. "What we were able to do here tonight speaks volumes about this program, the community, and everything associated with McLean County football.
"We knew we were going to have to pull everything out of the hat, pull out all the stops to have a chance to win this game -- and that's what we did."
Late in the third period, McLean County took its first lead of the game when Connor Baldwin scored on a 6-yard run and Landen Capps followed with a 2-point conversion run that made it 29-28 at 1:11 of the third.
Early in the fourth, however, Owensboro Catholic (9-3) blocked a McLean County punt and wound up with the ball on the Cougar 9-yard line. On the next play, Drew Hartz connected with Hagan Edge for a touchdown pass. Hartz then hooked up with Braden Mundy for a 2-point conversion pass that made it 36-29, Aces.
See Cougars/Page B3
But the Cougars had just begun to fight.
Starting at their own 39 on its ensuing possession, McLean County methodically ran the ball toward the Aces' end zone, connected on an option pass of 28 yards on 4th-and-21, then resumed its relentless ground attack.
Andrew Munster scored from a yard out with 39 seconds to play to pull the Cougars within one, and it was decision time for Wagner and Co. -- kick the extra-point and force overtime or go for all the marbles.
McLean laid it all on the line.
"I just pulled everybody around me and said, 'I love every one of you -- now, go out there and win this game,' " Wagner said.
And the Cougars, indeed, took a one-point lead when Capps squeezed into the corner of the end zone on a 2-point conversion run.
Still, it was far from over.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Hartz -- the top-rated passer in Kentucky -- drove Catholic from its own 30 to the Cougars' 18. With 1.3 seconds to play, Luke Payne lined up for a 34-yard field goal attempt to win it. The kick was blocked as time expired, and the Cougars' large contingent of fans spilled from the stands and stormed the field for a wild celebration.
"McLean deserves all the credit in the world," Aces coach Jason Morris said. "Coach Wagner has done a heck of a job to get their program prepared to win a big game like this with their style of play.
"They were stronger than us, and they pushed us around at times -- we've just got to go back to work and get better."
Catholic led 14-0 early, following a pair of Hartz-to-Edge scoring passes. McLean then responded with a 47-yard option pass TD from Peyton Caraway to Capps, but another TD pass from Hartz to Edge pushed the Aces back in front by two scores.
Munster's 9-yard scoring run closed out the first period, pulling the Cougars within 21-15.
Midway through the second period, McLean marched 75 yards in 11 plays -- tying the contest on a 5-yard TD run by Capps. Another Hartz-to-Edge touchdown aerial just before halftime provided Catholic a 28-21 lead at intermission.
McLean County finished with 425 yards of total offense, and, surprisingly, 104 of it came through the air. Capps ran for 116 yards and Munster rolled up 109.
Catholic, which defeated McLean County 55-21 on Oct. 4 in Calhoun, had 425 yards of total offense. Hartz was 24-of-33 through the air for 290 yards and five TDs -- all to Edge.
McLEAN COUNTY15-6-8-8 -- 37
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC21-7-0-8 -- 36
OC-Edge 33 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Edge 3 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
MC-Capps 47 pass from Caraway (Rodriguez kick)
OC-Edge 7 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
MC-Munster 9 run (Capps run)
MC-Capps 5 run (kick failed)
OC-Edge 24 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
MC-Baldwin 6 run (Capps run)
OC-Edge 9 pass from Hartz (Mundy pass from Hartz)
MC-Munster 1 run (Capps run)