A rain-soaked, mud-caked Josh Boeppler stood in paradise Friday night.
“Oh I love the rain,” the Immaculata lineman said. “Absolutely love it and there is nothing like it.”
For over two hours the senior, along with the rest of the Raider football team, sloshed through one of the wettest season openers in recent memory. But mother nature’s showers could not keep the team and it visitors, Sumner Academy, from playing one heck of a football game.
With Imac up 14-12 with three minutes remaining, the Sabres faced a fourth and 10 from the Raiders’ 25-yard line. The visitors had dominated possession the entire fourth quarter, yet had failed to penetrate the Imac goal line.
And so, in what turned out to be Sumner’s final offensive play of the game, quarterback Brandon Williams gathered in a shotgun snap. As he did that, Boeppler rammed into the right tackle from his defensive end spot. He swam over him, then blasted into a tight end and crashed down onto an unexpected Sabre, who happened to be Williams.
The sack brought the home crowd to its feet, the Raiders offense out onto the field and Boeppler into the night’s stardom.
“Oh boy, I knew I was going to get that quarterback. I knew it,” the Raider said. “I pulled out the old swim move and there he was. I got my quarterback.”
From there, one more big play was needed and that came from one of the game’s shining stars — Imac quarterback Drew Sachen. The freshman, who tallied the team’s only two touchdowns on the night, scampered for 15 yards on a third and nine. The conversion essentially ran out the game clock and presented Immaculata the two-point , 14-12 win.
“Oh my goodness, defensively we really played well,” Raiders coach Sean Sachen said. “They had a really shifty back and we kept them out of the endzone when we needed to. Early we were mashing offensively, but then I just don’t think we could get any real rhythm in the second half.
“But we did enough and it was fun and I want these guys to enjoy it.”
Despite the win, it was an unceremonious start for the home team. On the third play of the game, Drew Sachen fumbled a toss-pitch at his own 10-yard line. The mistake, however, went unconverted when the Imac defense stuffed Sumner’s fourth-down play five yards short of the endzone.
A few plays later, Sachen completely redeemed himself. After taking the snap, the freshman followed a wall of blockers towards the sideline. As the out-of-bounds line neared, Sachen slipped into a crease and turned on the jets. One hand touched him but that was it. The Raider zoomed down the field for Imac’s first touchdown of 2012.
The squad then converted a two-point conversion for an 8-0 advantage.
Immaculata’s lead lasted just four minutes though. Following a possession by each team, a bad punt snap by Immaculata gave the Sabres great field position. One play later and with the first quarter expiring, Andre Fasion ran for a 11-yard TD to put the score at 8-6, where it stayed following a failed Sumner conversion.
Imac began the second quarter with the ball and kept it that way for nearly half the period. After racking up five first downs, Sachen had the honors of slamming home a three-yard TD run. The subsequent two-point conversion was missed, but the green and white were back up 14-6.
The score rested there until 39 seconds before the break, when Williams hit receiver Jowell Daniels for a 20-yard TD strike. Another missed two-point conversion gave the game its halftime score of 14-12.
While the first half saw points in each quarter, the second half was a battle of field position and defenses. Both teams had drives stall in opponent’s territory and the third quarter ended with Sumner on the cusp of the Raiders’ 30-yard line.
But the Immaculata defense proved its worthiness, holding its visitors throughout the final quarter. At the nine minute mark, the squad kept Sumner from scoring on a fourth-and-goal. Six minutes later, Immaculata stood tall again when Boeppler recorded the game’s biggest sack and ultimately, set up the game winning conversion by Sachen a minute later.
“We went to a new defensive scheme that is aggressive but simple and they did a very good job,” the Imac coach said. “The two times they scored were on our miscues. Josh was huge and a play by Cory Holcomb, a freshman, to break up a pass earlier was huge too. Just great plays.”
Statistically, unofficially Drew Sachen finished the game with 153 yards rushing on 10 attempts for two touchdowns. He also threw two incompletions. Dustin Jostmeyer tallied 53 yards on 15 carries and Brandon Wall tallied six tackles.
Immaculata, 1-0, will host Onaga next Friday.
“I haven’t started a season out with a win since I played football,” Boeppler said. “It’s a great feeling and great start and hopefully we can take this win and progress.”