OTTAWA — Win or lose, every football team wants to leave it all out on the field its final game of the season.
The Ottawa Pirates most certainly did that Friday night.
Ottawa finished a difficult, 1-8 season with a gutsy, heart-felt performance in a thrilling Interstate Eight Conference meeting with the Rochelle Hubs. After an even regulation capped by a last-second touchdown and two overtimes, however, the Pirates came out on the wrong end of a 40-34 decision here at King Field.
"I can't be more proud of this group, and hats off to Rochelle," said Pirates head coach Chad Gross. "That was a heck of a high school football game.
"Our guys left everything out there, double-overtime thriller, and I think this is one our guys are going to remember for the rest of their lives."
Cam Ajazi (100 yards), Gabe Neece (83 yards, three TDs) and Austin Greifenkamp (53 yards, two touchdowns) led Rochelle's wing-T rushing attack. The Hubs ran an incredible 91 offensive plays compared to Ottawa's 39 and dominated time of possession 35:29 to 12:31.
The Ottawa defense rotated linemen to stay fresh — as much as could be expected, anyway — and avoided giving up the big play to keep their team in the ballgame. Jake Ovanic was all over the field, finishing with 16 tackles including four for no gain or a loss. Nolen Miller assisted on two TFLs, with Kyler Sprowls recording a quarterback sack on the final play of regulation to send the contest to overtime.
"It's tough going 1-8, and getting that last win would've been nice," said Miller, whose 3-yard touchdown run and ensuing 2PAT carry early in the fourth quarter gave Ottawa its last lead. "But the group of kids out here, the heart is unbelievable. ... It was a fun team to play on."
Galletti (10-of-17, 151 yards, three TDs, one INT), Naggs (four receptions for 112 yards, two TDs) and Coleman (eight rushes for 128 yards, one TD) led the Ottawa offensive attack.
In that first extra period, both teams scored on fourth-down plays — Rochelle on a 1-yard Neece plunge, the Pirates on a 4-yard pass from Galletti to Naggs. Ottawa had a chance to win it on the conversion, but the PAT sailed wide left, and a second overtime was called for.
There, Rochelle again had the ball first and again scored on fourth down — this time on a Neece 3-yard score. Ottawa took over, but three straight incompletions set up fourth-and-goal from the 10, and a desperate Galletti was chased backward before eventually completing a pass for minus-20 yards to a fighting-for-yardage Jake Serby to end the contest and — barring a rare 4-5 at-large bid for the Hubs — both teams' seasons.
"That was a heck of a football game. You got your money's worth tonight," said Hubs head coach Kyle Kissack. "Tonight we had two teams in a similar situation, seasons wrapping up tonight, and both teams played hard."
Ottawa forced the overtime period on a clutch 7-yard TD pass from Galletti to Cedric Fairrow with 5.5 seconds remaining and a good Kyle Szewczuk conversion kick.
That followed an incredibly fast start for the Pirates, with Galletti quick-hitting a crossing Naggs for an 81-yard touchdown on the game's initial play from scrimmage. Ottawa added a 49-yard, weaving touchdown sprint from Coleman late in the opening quarter, but trailed 14-13 at halftime and 20-13 heading into the fourth before Miller's score.
"We finished 1-8," said Gross, "but just the character and the work ethic the kids showed this season, especially the seniors, I'm very proud of them."
At King Field, Ottawa
Rochelle 40, Ottawa 34 (2OT)
Rochelle (4-5, 3-4) 8 6 6 8 6 6 — 40
Ottawa (1-8, 0-7) 13 0 0 15 6 0 — 34
O — Naggs 81 pass from Galletti (kick wide left), 11:44, 0-6.
R — Greifenkamp 8 run (Albers pass from Etes), 2:31, 8-6.
O — Coleman 49 run (Szewczuk kick), 0:31.4, 8-13.
R — Neece 1 run (run failed), 4:37, 14-13.
R — Greifenkamp 1 run (run failed), 7:33, 20-13.
O — N. Miller 3 run (N. Miller run), 7:01, 20-21.
R — Albers 11 run (Greifenkamp run), 1:40, 28-21.
O — Fairrow 7 pass from Galletti (Szewczuk kick), 0:05.5, 28-28.
R — Neece 1 run (run failed), 34-28.
O — Naggs 4 pass from Galletti (kick wide left), 34-34.
R — Neece 3 run (run failed)
First downs 28 12
Rushes-Yards 79-335 22-111
Passing yards 22 151
Total offense 357 262
Comp-Att-Int. 2-12-0 10-17-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 9-61 2-25
Punts-Avg. 0-0.0 3-23.7
Time of possession 35:29 12:31
RUSHING: Rochelle — Ajazi 21-100, Neece 19-83, Greifenkamp 14-53, Briseno 12-51, Albers 7-25, Etes 6-23; Ottawa — Coleman 8-128, N. Miller 4-8, Gosdin 2-8, Brown 1-3, Fairrow 2-2, Galletti 5-(-38).
PASSING (C-A-TD-INT-YD): Rochelle — Etes 2-12-0-0-22; Ottawa — Galletti 10-17-3-1-151.
RECEIVING: Rochelle — Morrissette 1-15, Greifenkamp 1-7; Ottawa — Naggs 4-112, Coleman 2-26, Fairrow 2-18, Serby 2-(-5).