IC Catholic Prep rallies for OT win at Princeton

The last side of the ball IC Catholic's Joey Gliatta ever thought he would be on in Saturday's Class 3A quarterfinal game at Princeton was offense.

But he proved to be just the spark the Knights needed.

Down 20-7 at the half, Gliatta scored two touchdowns to tie the game at 20 at the end of regulation. Then he added the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard run in overtime to lift the No. 1-ranked Knights to a 27-20 win over the top-seeded and No. 3 ranked Princeton.

All from primarily a defensive player, who is third string on offense.

"That's the last thing I thought would happen. I was just getting ready for defense and tackling and stopping all their dive plays," Gliatta said. "They stuck me in there and all I did was keep pushing and my O-line kept making holes for me and I just ran it. I just wanted to do the best for the team."

ICCP quarterback Dennis Mandala was not surprised by Gliatta's effort.

"He's an all-around great football player. We needed someone to sub in for Denzell Gibson and Joey did the job," Mandala said.

The Knights (11-1) return to the 3A semifinals against Byron, looking to avenge a 15-14 loss last year in the final seconds. Byron (11-1) was a 32-27 winner Saturday over No. 2 ranked Reed-Custer.

"That's what we wanted the whole time, getting the rematch," Mandala said.

Princeton's defense shut down the Knights' offense in the first half, allowing only a late first-quarter 37-yard TD pass from Mandela to Eric Karner.

The Tigers made a goal-line stand on the last play of the first half to preserve the 20-7 lead.

Princeton's defense came up big again with another goal-line stand to stop the Knights from the 1-yard line on their first possession of the second half.

But Gliatta, who rushed for 181 yards on 21 rushes mostly in the second half, proved to be the difference maker.

He capped an 8-play, 49-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run with 3:26 left in the third quarter to make it 20-14.

Gliatta added a 17-yard romp with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Princeton's Augie Christiansen got just enough of a hand on the ball to make Brian Kolodziejczyk's PAT kick come up short.

"Joey G had a huge day. Ran hard. Carried guys for extra yardage. He really got us going," ICCP assistant coach Roger Kelley said.

Princeton coach Ryan Pearson admitted he didn't have the Knights' No. 33 (Gliatta) on his radar.

"To be honest, I don't know where that kid came from, just because the films we had seen, 33 wasn't carrying the ball. It was always No. 7 (Gibson) and No. 22 (Malik Gray). But the kid's a heckuva runner. He ran hard and broke a lot of tackles."

The Knights got the first crack in overtime and Gliatta took it right up the middle on the very first play, running virtually untouched for the 10-yard score. Kolodziejczyk added the PAT this time for a 27-20 Knights' lead.

Princeton got its turn in OT, with the ball from the 10. Teegan Davis threw an incomplete pass to Danny Cihocki in the end zone on first down and Augie Christiansen took a pitch from Davis and tried to pass on second down, but was intercepted.

"We thought if we could put one on the board in the second half, we'd have a chance. We just couldn't seem to get things going second half," Pearson said. "I couldn't be more prouder. I think our kids did something nobody gave them a shot to do. IC is an unbelievable football team and I thought our kids gave everything they had. That's all I can ask."

"We gave it our all day. Tables didn't turn our way today," Davis said. "I think everybody played their hearts out. It was really a pleasure playing with all these kids my four years. I wouldn't want to play for anything other program in the state."

Other than the final score, Christiansen said he couldn't have asked for anything more.

"That's what football is about. Sub-30 degree weather. Just grinding it out. Overtime game. Granted it didn't end in our favor, but that was the most fun football game I've ever played in and might be the most fun game everybody on this field played in, including them," he said.

"I think we definitely shocked them. They even said, we came down on them and they had no clue what was going on."

Princeton (11-1) ran its game plan to perfection to start the game, running off most of the first quarter with 16-play, 80-yard scoring play with Christiansen cashing in on a 6-yard touchdown at the 2:16 mark.

Before the Tiger fans hardly had time to take a seat, Cihocki picked off a Mandala pass and returned it 30 yards to pay dirt for a 14-0 Tiger lead with 1:58 left in the first quarter.

The Knights used the Mandala to Karner touchdown pass to cut the Tigers' lead in half at 14-7 with 0:17 remaining in the first quarter.

Princeton stretched its lead to 20-7 when Brady Byers busted a 40-yard touchdown on a reverse. ICCP blocked the PAT attempt by Carlos Benavidez with 12th man attempting to run off the field when the ball was snapped. No call was made, despite Pearson's appeal, and the Tigers did not get a second attempt.

"It was a tough crowd and a very good team. We just kept pushing and never gave up and we won," Mandala said. "They're a great football team. All the credit to them."

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