QUINCY — As Bradyn Little’s pass barely sailed over Jack Mettemeyer’s outstretched arm and fell to the turf Friday night, Kael Ryan and his Sterling teammates could finally exhale.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my life,” said Ryan, Sterling’s do-it-all senior, moments after the Golden Warriors’ 34-28 overtime victory Friday night at Flinn Stadium. “I’ve played in some big games, but nothing has ever quite felt that good.”
Conversely, the loss was a stinging one for a Quincy High School team that proved it can go toe-to-toe with the best the Western Big 6 Conference has to offer.
“Tonight was probably the best effort we’ve had all season,” Quincy senior Gregory Quince said. “People were underestimating us with how good this team was. We really wanted to put on a show tonight.”
Those who came out were thoroughly entertained. Sterling, the WB6 co-leaders with Moline, grabbed a 28-21 lead with 4 minutes, 9 seconds left to play when Ryan plunged in from a yard out.
Quincy quickly answered as sophomore Jeraius Rice returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a score, tying the game at 28 with 3:51 remaining.
“When you have guys like that, you always have a chance,” QHS coach Rick Little said. “That was huge. At that point, I thought we were going to win this game.”
Little wasn’t alone.
“It was a great feeling,” Rice said. “We really thought we had it in the bag then. Our defense came out and played lights out.”
Quincy’s defense got the stop the Blue Devils needed, allowing Sterling (5-1, 4-0 WB6) just one first down on its possession after the Rice score. Quincy got the ball back at their own 41-yard line with 1:18 to play, but couldn’t get a first down.
The Blue Devils’ defense made another stop to force overtime.
Sterling got the ball first and scored on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line as Ryan slipped into the end zone. The point-after kick was blocked, giving QHS some additional life.
QHS’s lone overtime possession started with two runs by Rice to get the ball down to the 3-yard line. Quince caught a pass on third down but was pushed back for a 1-yard loss. On fourth down, Bradyn Little’s pass was just over Mettemeyer’s arm.
Ryan, who normally splits time at quarterback with fellow senior JP Schilling, was pressed into full-time duty in the third quarter after Schilling went down with an injury. He led Sterling’s attack with 173 yards on 20 carries. Seventy of those yards came on Sterling’s first score of the game in the first quarter, but he piled up the yards after Schilling went down and finished with three touchdown runs.
“He kind of did everything for us,” Sterling coach Jonathan Schlemmer said of Ryan. “He knew he had to do what he had to do and kind of put us on his back.”
Sterling finished with 279 yards on the ground.
Quincy’s first three touchdowns all came on touchdown passes from Little to Quince. The two connected on scoring passes of 3, 9 and 42 yards. Little finished 20-for-42 passing for 273 yards. The Blue Devils were hurt by several dropped passes. The offensive line also was whistled for two penalties in the second half — one an unsportsmanlike conduct and a holding penalty — that killed drives.
“At the end of the day, they made more plays than us,” said Rick Little, whose team fell to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in league play. “I think we hurt ourselves some. We have to be better.
“I feel like that was a game where we shoulda, coulda, woulda.”
Quincy returns to WB6 play next week when it travels to Geneseo. The Maple Leafs improved to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in league play with a 47-0 victory over Rock Island Alleman on Friday.
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