GAITHERSBURG — With his heart still pumping in adrenaline, the heavy-breathed Eric McKan III ran his fingers through his sopping-wet hair, trying to describe the emotions of Bullis’ palpitating 42-41 overtime win at Quince Orchard on Friday night.
“I can’t even talk right now, man,” said McKan, who dragged five defenders across the pylon in his go-ahead eight-yard touchdown run in overtime and backboned a resilient Bulldogs rushing attack with 138 yards on 26 carries.
Seemingly every ounce of energy was sapped from the burly 5-foot-8, 200-pound McKan, who didn’t say much after he adjoined his father in a teary-eyed postgame embrace. He wasn’t the only one basking in the epic triumph. Bullis players and coaches euphorically flooded the field after Doc Bonner’s potential game-winning two-point conversion pass sailed over the head of Quince Orchard receiver Brendan McGonagle and dribbled to the turf.
Heightened circumstances between two top-10 teams in the MSA power rankings mixed with emotion-jerking swings brought out the raw in just about everyone.
“Oh my gosh, what a game. I’ve been to a lot of games, a lot … this one is right up there with them. One of the top one’s now,” Bullis coach Pat Cilento said. “This was great. … Very emotional.”
After Bullis dominated the first half — leading 21-7, compiling 13 first downs compared to Quince Orchard’s four and outrushing the hosts 203 yards to 20 — the Cougars upstarted a comeback bid.
Quince Orchard brought it to 28-27 with 6:23 left in regulation and then erased the deficit entirely with 1:30 to go when Bonner uncorked a 72-yard scoring bomb to McGonagle and followed with his best impression of Superman when he soared across the pylon for the game-tying two-point conversion.
On top of it all, Bullis lost five starters to injury, including starting quarterback Tucker Strachan (separated shoulder), do-it-all playmaker and Notre Dame Lacrosse commit Bryson Shaw (undisclosed) and safety Austin Allen (shoulder).
The absence of Shaw, who got the Bulldogs rolling early with a two-yard score that made it 7-0 and managed 149 total yards in two and a half quarters, showed the most.
“Our kids are resilient,” Cilento said. “The adversity we overcame. I mean, we lost our two starting safeties, a corner, and a linebacker out, and the kids still performed. They all knew where to lineup.”
Strachan exited in the second quarter, but sophomore Jackson Greenleaf relieved in seamless fashion, completing 2 of 3 passes for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first pass attempt was a 55-yarder to Shaw that pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-7 just before halftime. The second touchdown pass came on 4th-and-8 at the Cougars 16-yard-line with 2:14 to go. Greenleaf, on play action, rolled out to the right and connected with Isaac Aronson on the 16-yard score, which made it 35-27.
“He did a great job,” Cilento said of Greenleaf.
Like it had all night, Quince Orchard’s fate hinged on Bonner (285 yards and two touchdowns on 17-for-21 passing; 27 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries), who rose to the occasion in the pressure-cooker. That’s when Bonner connected with McGonagle for a 72-yard touchdown in stride and followed with the game-tying two-point conversion that ultimately sent the game to overtime. But before regulation ended, Quince Orchard recovered a fumble on Bullis’ final drive and marched 30-some yards to the goal line, where it appeared Bonner had won the game after he crossed the plane in the waning seconds. But the officials called the play dead, ruling his forward momentum had been stopped.
Overtime came and went in a matter of minutes. Quince Orchard couldn’t stop Bullis on the first possession, and when their turn came, coach John Kelley decided to go for the kill after Bonner found McGonagle in the flat for an eight-yard score, but it never materialized.
“It’s why you play football. It’s an emotional game,” Kelley said. “Sometimes you’re on the right side of these games, which I’ve been, and sometimes you’re not. It happens.”
Moments before, McKan lowered his shoulder and kept churned his legs with the intent to leave no doubt. Mission accomplished, he’d say.
“I just smelled the end zone. I just wanted to win,” McKan said. “I didn’t want them to stop me. My team counted on me there in that moment. I didn’t know what would happen next. All I knew was I had to get this game over with.”
NOTES: Bullis outgained Quince Orchard in total yards, 626-452, and had more first downs, 19-14. Quince Orchard’s Marquez Cooper added 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, McGonagle had 99 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions and Elijah Payne had 75 yards on four receptions.
BS — Bryson Shaw 2-yard run (Nwosu kick), 6:37 [7-0]
QO — Johnny Hodges 70-yard fumble return (Judge kick), 11:12 [7-7]
BS — Eric McKan III 31-yard run (Nwosu kick), 6:13 [14-7]
BS — Bryson Shaw 55-yard pass from Jackson Greenleaf (Nwosu kick), 1:56 [21-7]
QO — Marquez Cooper 5-yard run (Judge kick), 6:04 [21-14]
BS — Ashton Allen 96-yard kick return (Nwosu kick), 5:50 [28-14]
QO — Doc Bonner 3-yard run (Judge kick), 2:15 [28-21]
QO — Doc Bonner 8-yard run (Run failed), 6:23 [28-27]
BS — Isaac Aronson 18-yard pass from Jackson Greenleaf (Nwosu kick), 2:14 [35-27]
QO — Brendan McGonagle 72-yard pass from Doc Bonner (Bonner run), 1:30 [35-35]
BS — Eric McKan III 8-yard run (Nwosu kick), first possession [42-35]
QO — Brendan McGonagle 8-yard pass from Doc Bonner [Pass failed], first possession [42-41]