MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — When Melbourne Central Catholic trailed by 21 points early in the second quarter of a state quarterfinal matchup, players were reminded that there was still a lot of football left to play.
Turns out, there was more than anyone envisioned.
It took a Florida state-record nine overtimes, but the Hustlers beat Clearwater Central Catholic 69-62 on Friday night — after the teams combined for a staggering 89 points after regulation.
The win sent the Hustlers into this weekend’s state Class 3A semifinals.
“I’m most excited for our kids and our coaches, to be able to experience this,” Melbourne Central Catholic coach Stacy Sizemore said Sunday. “We have about six or seven seniors that play and the rest are sophomores and juniors.”
Joaquin Collazo’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter pulled Melbourne Central Catholic into a 21-21 tie.
Little did anyone know, the teams were just getting started.
Both teams stopped the other in the first and fifth overtimes. In the eighth overtime, Clearwater Central Catholic reached the end zone but missed the extra point. And when Melbourne Central Catholic answered with a touchdown, the Hustlers had a chance to win right there — only to see their own point-after try get blocked, extending the game a little more. There’s no rule in Florida mandating that teams try a 2-point conversion after a certain number of overtimes.
“We even threw two picks in overtime,” Sizemore said.
The Hustlers overcame it all, scoring again in the ninth overtime when Collazo rushed in for the third time. On the ensuing Clearwater Central Catholic possession, the Hustlers got a fourth-down stop at the 1 to — finally — end the game. Sizemore didn’t even know what time the game ended, figuring it was somewhere around 11:30 p.m. and needed nearly 300 snaps to complete.
“Craziest game I ever played in,” Clearwater Central Catholic’s Jerquan Newton wrote on Twitter, adding in a subsequent post that his teammates “should never be ashamed of what happened.”
“We all fought hard,” Newton wrote.
Players from both sides were helping each other to their feet as many cramped during the overtime sessions.
“That’s what high school football is about, those kind of memories,” Sizemore said. “Good, bad or indifferent, it’s about the memories.”
Sizemore said for the most part, his team — which includes some two-way players — got out of the game fairly healthy. And at 6 a.m. Monday, they would be back at work with some weightlifting before school starts.
“They’re excited to keep going,” Sizemore said.