NORTH CLARENDON — Anthony Polli rolled out and hit Brady Diaz with a two-point pass with 1:23 left and Otter Valley took a 36-35 lead and hanged on to beat Mill River in a wild Division III football game Saturday.
Then the Otters had to hold their breath.
True to the ebb and flow of the game Mill River charged into scoring position with a 36-yard hook-and ladder pass from Colby Fox to Evan McPhee to Tyler Shelvey. Mill River had a first-and-goal from the 9 and when the Minutemen reached fourth down at the 1 they called for Tor Majorell, their freshman placekicker.
Majorell had pounded through all five of his extra-point attempts but he got under the ball on his 19-yard potential game winner and it fell short of the goal posts with just 10 seconds left.
Otter Valley is 4-2 and remained in contention in its bid to host a home playoff game. The Minutemen fell to 1-5 after seeing a game that could have boosted their playoff stock slip through their fingers.
The game was such that fans could have been reaching for champagne one minute and antacids the next. The lead swapped hands five times and both quarterbacks enjoyed big days, Polli passing for 271 yards (21 of 29) and three scores and Fox passing for 250 yards (13 of 24) and three TDs, plus two more with his feet.
The Otters had 435 yards of offense and the Minutemen 412.
Mill River led by as much as 21-12 before an OV rally in the second half and the Otters had a 28-21 lead before the Minutemen put up back-to-back scores.
It was hard to fathom after the teams played to a scoreless, mistake-plagued first period. The Otters took a 6-0 lead on Polli’s 5-yard pass to Chance Passmore and the scoring pace really picked up.
OV’s Jared Denis scored from the 1 for a 12-7 lead and Mill River vaulted in front when Fox connected for 59 yards and a score to Conner Lopiccolo and a 14-12 lead. Those two scores came with just 12 seconds leaving the game clock.
With Shelvey drawing double coverage, Lopiccolo snared six passes for 130 yards and two scores by halftime.
Fox’s 20-yard run in the third period gave the Minutemen their biggest lead at 21-12. Fox ran for 74 yards on 13 carries and Jacob Langlois had another 49 on nine tries.
Otter Valley’s Nate Blake, who ran for one score and caught a pass for another, had 116 yards on 22 carries.
Blake’s 20-yard run with 8:15 left in the third period sliced the Minuteman lead to 21-20 and after Spencer Pelkey recovered a fumble OV cashed it in with a little swing pass from Polli to Blake that he turned into a 50-yard, catch-and-run scoring play. Polli’s pass to Diaz made it 28-21.
Shelvey ignited Mill River’s comeback with a 56-yard run on the end reverse, setting up Fox’s 5-yard run. The point-after tied the game at 28.
After the Otters gambled and lost on a fourth-and-4 from their own 41, Fox hit McPhee streaking down the left sideline in single coverage and laid the ball out perfectly, with McPhee making the catch and tumbling into the end zone with a 39-yard score. The Minutemen led 35-298 with 2:25 left but the Otters weren’t done, either.
They covered 59 yards in just three pass plays, with a 30-yarder to Diaz setting up a 28-yarder to Caleb Whitney to pull the Otters within 35-34. Diaz then made a diving reception near the right pylon for two points and the lead with 1:23 left.
The Otters will host Windsor and the Minutemen will visit BFA-Fairfax next Saturday.