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November 10, 2012

McGuinness holds off Duncan

OKLAHOMA CITY — Behind a swell of momentum, Duncan was primed for a comeback Friday night.

The sideline roared and the Demon defenders gestured for more as Bishop McGuinness sent out its punt unit once again — this time giving Duncan the ball in a one-score game with less than 7 minutes to go.

Then, all that momentum was swept away in the wind.

Added by a strong backwind, McGuinness’ punt sailed beyond the return men and was downed on the 2-yard line, pinning back Duncan’s offense and deflating the comeback. The Demons went three-and-out and the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish tacked on an insurance touchdown, advancing to the Class 5A quarterfinals and ending Duncan’s season with a 34-20 victory.

“That was a killer,” Duncan coach Jim Holloway said of the punt. “It just made for such a short field (for McGuinness) and put too much pressure on our defense.

“But we made them punt it and we had an opportunity to score and go tie it up. Maybe we would have gone for two and won it,” Holloway added with a smile. “Matter of fact, we were going to go for two, and we were going to make it.”

McGuinness (10-1) came into the game as a heavy favorite, and early on it was playing the part, forcing a three-and-out by Duncan and scoring on its first drive to go up 7-0.

Just three plays into the second quarter it was 14-0 McGuinness. But just when it seemed like the end was near for Duncan, senior linebacker Cody Merrill made a play; deflecting a pass straight up into the air and then intercepting it when it came back to earth. Four plays later junior running back Je’Mario McCoy broke a pair of tackles and spun past another defender on a 16-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7.

After extending their lead to 21-7 before halftime, the Irish found moving the ball to be a much bigger challenge in the second half.

McGuinness never punted in the first half but was forced to boot the ball away on its first two drives of the second half. Both times Duncan responded with field goals from senior Jack Braught, cutting it to 21-13.

“We made a really good adjustment (at halftime),” Duncan senior defensive tackle Caleb Longest said. “We got out of base and we put some more defensive linemen in and that really helped.”

The Irish pushed the lead back to 27-13 going into the fourth quarter before McCoy led the Demons on an 80-yard drive, punching it in from 2 yards out to shrink the margin to 27-20 with 7:32 to go.

McGuinness’ sideline had quieted. The swagger the Irish had early seemed gone. It all belonged to Duncan.

Back-to-back incomplete passes on the ensuing drive setup fourth-and-long and sent Duncan’s players and fans into a frenzy of excitement.

Then, they all watched as Cody Chancellor’s punt said high into the night sky, before bouncing and rolling 72 yards to the 2-yard line.

“That was tough,” Duncan senior defensive end/fullback Cameron McGill said of the punt. “I think it made a mental block for us.”

After three plays the Demons were forced to punt into those strong winds and the ball only made it to the 36-yard line. Three plays later McGuinness all but sealed the game with a 1-yard touchdown run.

“We played really, really hard,” Holloway said. “We probably didn’t start off the way we would have like to, but those last three quarters, we brought it about as good as we can bring it against a really good football team. ... We wanted a chance to win it in the fourth quarter and we had that chance.”

A big part of the Demons’ success the last three quarters was due to McCoy.

After getting off to a slow start, the shifty, fleet-footed runner started breaking off big gains, starting with his 16-yard touchdown. McCoy ended up with 185 yards and two scores on 26 carries, giving him 1,024 rushing yards this season.

Duncan’s passing game, meanwhile, didn’t have such a great night.

With non-stop winds and lots of pressure by McGuinness, Duncan senior quarterback Tanner Norton, who had thrown only one interception all season, was picked off twice, and the Demons were 0-9 on pass attempts.

The overall performance — solid defense, strong running, difficulty passing — may have encapsulated Duncan’s season, a season the Demons weren’t ready to say good bye to as they embraced each other with tears in their eyes.

“It was an up-and-down season. We had some real good wins and some losses that were tough to swallow,” Longest said. “But we had a real family bond on this team.”

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