STERLING – Perfection has been displayed in many ways throughout the course of human history.
A writer might contend that Shakespeare achieved perfection with “Hamlet.” An artist might point to the “Mona Lisa.”
Every car commercial will say the latest model is perfect.
Jake Snow and Mike Papoccia will point to play No. 1 of Saturday’s 35-12 win over Eastland-Pearl Ciy in the second round of the 2A playoffs at Sterling Chevrolet Field at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
Snow took the handoff from quarterback A.J. Sharp to the left side, found a gap that one of those perfect cars could have driven through, and burst into the open field. A mere 79 yards later, he crossed the goal line. A Brandon Ahlgrim kick put Newman up 7-0 with 13 seconds off the clock.
“That play was perfect,” Snow said. “The line blocked it perfectly, and all I had to do was hit the hole and take it from there. We haven’t been a fast-starting team, so it was important to us to come out like that right away.”
“That play was perfectly executed,” said Papoccia, a 34-year veteran of the Newman sideline. “The line opened it up, and it was up to Jake after that. He’s been making that happen all year. It was huge, because I think it took some of the wind out of their sails and made them think a little bit.”
The Wildcatz (10-1) looked poised to punch back after Shawn Larak powered forward for 16 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Eastland-Pearl City picked up another first down to advance to midfield. After a 3-yard run by Donny Groezinger, quarterback Deven Heeren was sacked by Nate Terveer for a 6-yard loss.
After a punt by Skylar Paulson, Newman (10-1) took over at its own 35.
Mac Olson rumbled for 11 yards on first down to the 46. Three more yards by Dillan Heffelfinger put the ball at the 49, setting up Snow for more magic.
Snow, who was seen vomiting on the sideline before the game because of nerves, took the ball to the left side. He appeared to be stalled for a loss, before reversing his direction and taking the ball 27 yards down the field to the EPC 22.
Two plays later, Olson – who had 74 yards on the day – carried two Wildcatz defenders into the end zone to put Newman up 13-0.
“We call him the Mac truck, because that’s the way he runs,” Papoccia said. “He’s so tough, and he fights for every inch.”
Olson also had 10 tackles from his linebacker position on defense. That was second only to fellow linebacker Michael Ely, who had 12 tackles.
The Comets held 6-foot, 195-pound junior fullback Eric Schaney to 91 yards on 19 carries.
“You had to stay low on him,” Ely said. “If he got going full-steam ahead, it was pretty tough to bring him down. He was a load.”
Schaney drew the Wildcatz within a touchdown in the second quarter on an 18-yard run.
“The line opened that one up, and I didn’t get touched the whole way,” Schaney said. “They’ve being doing that the entire season. I got 1,000 yards all because of them.
“It felt like the momentum was shifting there, but we just didn’t play as well as we usually do. Too many mistakes, and we couldn’t have that against a team like Newman.”
The Wildcatz missed a chance the drive before the touchdown, after Newman fumbled a punt return to set up EPC at the Comets’ 32.
The Wildcatz rumbled down to the 17, but a halfback pass by Groezinger was intercepted by Trevor Bolin in the end zone.
“We didn’t take advantage of the one mistake they made,” Eastland-Pearl City coach Randy Asche said. “We didn’t handle the pressure as well as they did, and they took advantage. They’d get into that 4 yards, and 4 more yards, and 4 more yards. It grinds you down.”
After the Schaney score, Newman went on a 6-minute drive that was extended at one point by a late-hit penalty on EPC.
The Comets wrapped up the drive with 7-yard TD pass from Sharp to Shayne Allen with 34.7 seconds left. The 2-point conversion run failed, but Newman was up 19-7.
Neither team moved the ball much in the third quarter, and the Wildcatz started pressing late in the quarter. On fourth-and-long, Heeren hit Paulson on a 13-yard pass for a first down.
EPC tried its hand again on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter at the Newman 33.
Heeren tried to hit Schaney in the flat, but Ely charged up and knocked the ball to the ground.
“I just happened to see Schaney running out alone in the open, and I knew I had to get to him,” Ely said.
“We moved Michael to linebacker from nose tackle a few weeks ago because of injuries,” Papoccia said. “He’s such a smart player, and hasn’t missed a beat since making that move.”
Newman went on another 6-minute drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by Heffelfinger.
EPC went into hurry-up mode down 27-6, and moved the ball quickly down the field via the passing game.
The Wildcatz scored on a 16-yard pass from Heeren to Groezinger with 4:25 left.
The onside kick attempt was recovered by Newman, and moments later, Snow put the game away with a 29-yard touchdown run.
Snow finished with 199 rushing yards. He also caught two passes for 29 yards.
“It was a physical game,” Snow said. “That’s what we like to do, and that’s what they like to do. I love playing in games like that. We just lined up and pounded on each other.”