COLUMN: Instant replay could have helped in the Fort Frye vs. Waterford football game

BEVERLY — Eric McCutcheon probably wishes high school football had instant replay.

The Waterford High head coach definitely would’ve liked a review of Wildcat quarterback Peyten Stephens’ run for a 2-point conversion with less than a minute remaining in Friday night’s game at Cadet Field. If the Wildcat signal caller had made it, the contest would’ve been tied at 22-all, and the Waterford-Fort Frye rivalry contest probably would’ve had to have been settled in overtime. (There was still some time remaining on the regulation clock.)

But the refs apparently ruled that Stephens had not broken the plane of the goal-line, and was short. With that decision, Fort Frye maintained a 22-20 advantage.

Not surprisingly, the Waterford team and their fans disagreed with the call. A penalty or two was called.

A visibly upset McCutcheon actually went out on the field to plead the Wildcats’ case with the ref.

On the ensuing kickoff by Waterford deep in its own territory, the Cats attempted an onside kick, which was recovered by a Cadet– and the game was essentially over. Fort won by two points.

Last year, at Wildcat Field, the Cadets won by four.

Fort Frye (3-0) has now won 11 consecutive football games against Waterford (2-1). But in the last two, the Cadets have had to stage second-half rallies to prevail.

In the most recent one Waterford dominated the play during first-half action, and led 14-0.

Just before the intermission, the Wildcats gambled with fourth-and-short on their own 20 — and Stephens made the first down on a plunge.

The green and white then ran out the clock.

At the start of the second half, Fort received and got back into the game with a scoring drive, which was capped by Tyler Fisher’s 3-yard touchdown run and Brian Adkins’ 2-point conversion run.

The Cadets now trailed, 14-8.

On Waterford’s first offensive possession after the break, a Stephens’ throw was intercepted by Fort’s Brady Schilling. On the play, Wildcat junior Zane Heiss was injured and had to come off the field.

When play was resumed, the Cadets were unable to capitalize on the turnover and turned the ball over on downs.

Meanwhile, Heiss returned to the action, caught a Stephens’ pass, and raced 67 yards for an apparent Waterford TD that would’ve made it 20-8.

But the touchdown was called back due to a penalty — a Wildcat lineman had been downfield.

Waterford then ended up punting, and Fort Frye put together another scoring drive, which was capped by Evan Schob’s 6-yard run to paydirt early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt, the Cadets came up short, and the game was knotted at 14-all.

Late in the period, Fort was backed up against its own end zone and was in a third and seven on the 11-yard line. Taking a Tate Engle handoff, Fisher veered left, raced down the sideline past the Cadet bench, and scored on an 89-yard TD run. Engle then scored on a 2-point conversion run, making it 22-14.

That Fisher run was a back-breaker, or was it?

Waterford still had time, and made the most of it with Stephens completing two passes to Heiss. On the second one, Heiss hauled it in in the end zone with 49 seconds remaining. Stephens then tried to tie it with a run, but….he was stopped just shy of the goal line, according to the refs.

The Cadets were elated, while the Wildcats were mad, because they thought they’d leveled the score.

While instant replay might’ve been more conclusive…well, we’ll just never know, will we?

In any event, it was still one heckuva Friday night high school football game.

Ron Johnston, rjohnston@mariettatimes.com