Rarely does the first 17 seconds of a football game have such a big impact on its outcome.
Yet, that was the case in Friday's Pleasant Ridge versus Immaculata football game.
Like a cannon shot, the contest began with a bang when Pleasant Ridge's Nick Holmes returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The Ram wiggled a path from one side of the field to the other as the crowd went wild.
"Special teams came up big for us," PR coach Pat McCollim said. "Nick is making plays and they are big ones. Guys were blocking for him and are confident in him now."
From there, the contest became an old-fashion grudge match between two heated rivals. Ultimately, the game came down to six points as the Rams defeated the Raiders 20-14.
"That kickoff to start the game hurt," Imac coach Sean Sachen said. "We gave them eight points to start and we were automatically in the hole. Once we settled in, it was a grind — a battle."
Following the kickoff return, Pleasant Ridge converted a two-point conversion to led 8-0. Ridge then struck again on its next possession. After an Imac three-and-out, Holmes took a fake punt 38 yards to get out from the shadow of his own goal posts before rushing in a 21-yard score six plays later.
It was eight minutes into the game and PR was running away with it. Yet near the end of the first quarter, the Raiders found their footing. Following a pair of first downs, Raider Drew Sachen hooked up with Connor Schmidling for an 8-yard TD pass. The two-point attempt was good and the first quarter ended 14-8 Ridge.
Nothing really slowed down in the second. From the period's beginning, the Rams marched through an 11-play drive that accumulated with a 1-yard TD rush by Riley Camp. The team's two-point attempt was again unsuccessful.
Imac answered when Sachen raced for a 15-yard score minutes later. A missed two-point attempt put the score at 20-14, where it rested until half.
"We had some mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot," McCollim said. "Yet there were no scheme adjustments (at half), we were just over running the ball."
Sloppy play and penalties dominated the third quarter. Each squad built drives, but neither could sustain them. Ridge blew a fake punt in its own territory, but Raiders gave the ball right back with a fumbled snap. The game entered the fourth still 20-14 PR.
To start the final quarter, the game continued to go back and forth along the field's timeline without any real consequence. With two minutes left, Imac had a fourth and 10 at Ridge's 41 that ended with an incomplete pass. The Rams then ran out the clock to secure the six-point win.
"A play here, a play there and we could have won," Sean Sachen said. "It hurts me because these guys have been working really hard and you want to see them on the other side of the win column. Beating these guys is tough and when you have an opportunity, you have to take advantage."
Statistically, the game was dominated by the teams' quarterbacks, mainly due to their legs. Unofficially, Sachen ended the game with 195 yards rushing on 15 attempts. He also had 61 yards passing on eight throws. His counterpart Holmes racked up 123 yards rushing on 18 tries plus the 130 yards plus he had on special teams. He was 3-for-8 throwing for 27 yards.
Immaculata, 2-2, will be Jefferson County North next Friday while Pleasant Ridge, 2-2, travels to McLouth.
"I feel great about the win," McCollim said. "Being new here, the day after I was hired I was told we want to beat Imac. That was about the only directive I was given."