ST. MARYS – If not by land, turn to the air, and turn to it the Chucks did in a big way. Punxsy quarterback Garrett Zimmerman led the "Air Chucks" for 21 second-half points with the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion coming with 11 seconds left on the clock to sink the St. Marys Flying Dutch, 21-20, Friday night.
In the shotgun, Zimmerman found Christian Falgout from five yards out to pull Punxsy to within a point, 20-19, to cap an 11-play, 64-yard drive. The touchdown was not enough though, as Punxsy went for the two-point conversion and win.
On the potential game-winning two-point conversion, the Chucks’ quarterback rolled out and fired a pass into Clayton Dale’s hands for the go-ahead points to make it, 21-20.
After the kickoff and a Chucks’ penalty, the Dutch saw five seconds on the scoreboard from midfield. St. Marys quarterback Alex Coudriet rolled out and threw down the field, only to see Punxsy’s Alex Bevak snatch it out of the air for the interception to seal the 21-20 come-from-behind win.
“There was no doubt about going for two, as we had to win the game,” exclaimed Punxsy coach Alan Nichol after the game. “After St. Marys called the timeout when we lined up, we actually changed from a run to a pass play, and Dale made a great play to catch the pass. It worked out just the way we planned.”
Zimmerman was on fire for the Chucks, now 3-2 and 2-0 in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Large School Division, in the second half. He hit 12 of 17 attempts for 163 yards and two scores. For the game, the senior signal-caller finished 14 of 22 for 198 yards, less than 100 yards from his four-game total heading into the night.
“Zimmerman is a fantastic quarterback,” Nichol said after the game. “It should come as no surprise to anyone. The passing success was a total team effort down the line.”
The Chucks were forced to turn to the pass from the combination of various factors. The team was missing four starters, including second-leading rusher, Jamie Bush, and lineman Luke Shiock, and had totaled just 65 yards on 32 rushes with the clock-eating St. Marys Wing-T offense on the other side of the field.
“With injury and illness keeping a bunch of players out, including Jamie Bush on both sides of the ball, we had to play with nothing but heart,” said Nichol.
The Punxsy defense proved to be opportunistic on the night, which was just as key as the offense’s passing game. The unit forced four turnovers and intercepted a two-point conversion to keep the game close all evening.
“We were without two linebackers, and Cory Brooks and Caesar Maruca stepped up and played great,” added Nichol. “We knew they could run the ball, but our players played their hearts out and did the job.”
“We had to rotate players to make up for the group we were missing. Jordan London and Brandon Snyder were big on the line, and Adam Ferko saw his first action.”
The Punxsy defense allowed 330 yards on 56 rush attempts on the night.
The number may sound like a lot, but the Chucks intercepted both of Dutch QB Coudriet’s pass attempts on the night to not allow a single yard passing.
Falgout picked off the first pass of the night at the end of the first half, while Bevak grabbed the other to end the game.
Bevak also intercepted Coudriet’s two-point conversion pass to keep the difference at 12 midway through the third quarter in St. Marys favor.
Bevak also was the receiving star on the night for the Chucks.
He led all Punxsy pass catchers with five Zimmerman passes for a season-best 77 yards. Dale grabbed three passes for 54 yards, including the key two-point conversion in the final seconds.
Dakota Byers had three balls for 35 yards and the first score of the night from four yards away. Maruca hauled in two eight-yard passes with one going for the second Punxsy score.
Falgout managed 47 yards on the ground over 17 carries to lead the ground game. Punxsy totaled 263 yards of offense with 198 yards through the air on 54 plays from scrimmage.
Coming out with a 6-0 halftime lead, St. Marys (2-3/0-3 KSAC Large) drove 66 yards on 11 plays to score to start the second half of play.
Fullback Alex Feldbauer, who led the Dutch with 175 yards on 30 carries, ran in from 10 yards to make it 12-0 at 6:38 in the third.
Bevak intercepted the two-point conversion to keep it at the 12-0 score.
Punxsy answered with its best drive of the night when Zimmerman started to heat up. The QB completed all four passes on the drive for 69 yards with a four-yard pass to Byers for the Chucks' first points to cut it the margin to 12-6 with 1:21 in the third stanza.
The Chucks defense recovered its second Dutch fumble of the night on the third play of the ensuing possession. On the Punxsy 46-yard line, Feldbauer fumbled the ball after running nine yards into the secondary.
Off the turnover, Zimmerman and the offense went back to work. After a 14-yard pass, Falgout had his best run of the night of 19 yards on a pitch out to take the ball to the home 40-yard line with the 15-play drive just starting.
Following 12 plays, Punxsy was faced with a fourth-and-goal from the eight-yard line.
Zimmerman stepped up and found Maruca for the second time in the drive from eight yards away to give the Chucks the first lead of the night, 13-12, after Trevor Peace’s point after with 5:47 left in the game.
St. Marys and its ground game would not be denied one last time in the contest. Feldbauer handled the ball seven times in 11 plays for 19 yards. Cody Baker put together two 17-yard bursts with the second finding paydirt to put the Dutch back in front. Coudriet ran in the two-point conversion to put the tally at 20-13 with just 1:36 on the clock.
The St. Marys score put Punxsy in two-minute mode. Zimmerman took the controls again taking over at his own 36-yard line with 1:35 left. The QB hit three of his first six passes with two to Bevak and one to Dale to move to the Dutch 20-yard line with 40 seconds.
Following a St. Marys' pass interference to move the ball to the 10-yard line, Zimmerman was flushed out of the pocket and ran for five yards.
He spiked the ball to stop the clock with 15.5 ticks remaining. From the shotgun, the senior stepped up and found Falgout for the score on the next play before making the two-point conversion and setting the eventual 21-20 final.
Despite the happy ending, the night didn’t start off very well for the Chucks. On the second offensive play, Zimmerman dropped back and fumbled the ball, which the Dutch recovered at the visiting 30-yard line.
Punxsy’s defense stood strong to begin the night. After three rushes amassing six yards, Maruca stepped up to hold Dutch fullback Feldbauer to a two-yard gain, two yards short of the first-down marker for a turnover on downs.
The Chucks saw their second drive in a row result in negative yardage. Following two Maruca fullback rushes for no gain, Zimmerman completed a 10-yard pass to Falgout, only to have it called back due to a motion penalty.
After an incompletion, Punxsy punted the ball away.
Taking over on the Punxsy 47-yard line, Feldbauer took a quick hit fullback handoff 33 yards down to the 19-yard line.
Three plays later, Feldbauer pushed his way into the endzone from five yards out to put the Dutch ahead 6-0 with 5:57 in the opening quarter. The point after was no good.
A third Punxsy drive failed to produce a first down, and St. Marys took over on its own 27-yard line. The Dutch worked the ball down the field. After nine-straight rushes totaling 54 yards, St. Marys found the ball resting on the Punxsy 29-yard line. Baker took his turn with the next handoff and busted through the line for 24 yards to set up 1st-and-goal from the five-yard line.
Punxsy saw its defense come up big on the next play, as Zimmerman picked up a St. Marys fumble and took it to the Chucks’ 22-yard line.
With two Falgout carries giving the Chucks' their opening first down, the punt team came on the field four snaps later. Punter Falgout drew a roughing the punter penalty to keep the drive alive.
After three runs, Zimmerman completed the game’s first pass to Alex Bevak down the middle for 16 yards down to the home 35-yard line.
The two Chucks connected again on the next play for 19 yard to the Dutch 16-yard line. A third-straight pass play by the two went in-and-out of Bevak’s hands on the end zone.
Two incompletions coupled with a holding call set up fourth-and-22. From the shotgun, Zimmerman could not find a receiver, pulled the ball down and covered 17 yards but was still short of the first-down marker.
St. Marys rushed the ball seven-straight times before Coudriet attempted his first pass, which Falgout snatched from the air to keep it a 6-0 home lead at the half.
Punxsy will return to Jack LaMarca Stadium next Friday night to face Clarion-Limestone at 7 p.m.