Game of the Week

Quakers win 4-OT thriller over Tornadoes in Game of the Century

Dover and New Philadelphia wage one for the ages

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Forget the Malone University Game of the Week. This one was the Malone University Game of the Century.

After one-hundred or so years of uniting on the battlefield to partake in one of the state’s biggest and oldest football rivalries, every year’s week-10 showpiece between the Dover Tornadoes and the New Philadelphia Quakers is a spectacle to behold. While there have been a lifetime-plus of these games played over the decades, the 2017 version may go down as the most tantalizing, exciting and well-fought game ever.

With both teams laying it on the line from the opening whistle to the final play of the game, it would be the Quakers pulling out a 45-38 road win that took a heart-pounding four overtimes to decide. This was one of those games that will be talked about by these players’ children, their children’s children and many generations to follow.

It was a shining example of players from both teams understanding the magnitude of this incredible rivalry. It was a perfect example of players doing whatever it took to push their team to victory. It was, in a nutshell, exactly what anyone who has followed this rivalry without having a rooting interest for either team dreams of. For fans of New Philadelphia, it was an invitation to walk on the clouds next to heaven’s gate for awhile. For Dover’s faithful, it was an agony that rivals no other agony in the sports world.

The emotions of this game are so intense that it is doubtful that any player, any team and their fan base can understand. Yes, other schools have rivalries but not to the level that this one has dug its roots. And on this night these two teams posted a finale that pushed its way to the very front of the ever-growing saga.

Between all of the greatness that took place on the field, it would be impossible to cover it all in a single story. It started with big, burly linemen banging hats in the trenches on every play. It was Dover running back Dre Hess returning from an injury and playing his heart out. It was Tornadoes starting quarterback Alec Sayre fighting for every ounce of energy despite appearing to be totally spent. It was Quakers’ wide-out Sam Zemis coming up big in the biggest game of his life, snaring five touchdown passes. It was LJ Lowery churning out a 45-yard gain on a fake punt for New Philadelphia. It was kickers Storm Elsesser of New Philadelphia and Dover’s Jack Deneher lining up and hitting clutch kicks, knowing that a miss would mean certain defeat. It was unheralded New Phila lineman Tavion Anderson making a key sack at the end of the game to help force overtime and then making the key sack in the fourth overtime that basically sealed Dover’s fate.

Players took turns playing a game of “I can do ya one better” all night long.

So here is a recap of how the score built up, from the opening Quakers’ touchdown to the final Hail Mary from Dover.

New Phila 7, Dover 0 – Baron May to Sam Zemis for 25-yard touchdown pass.

New Phila 7, Dover 7 – Dover QB Alec Sayre QB sneak from 1-yard on 4th-and-goal.

New Phila 7, Dover 14 – Alec Sayre scores on second QB sneak from 1-yard out right before the half.

New Phila 14, Dover 14 – Baron May finds Sam Zemis for a 6-yard scoring strike.

New Phila 17, Dover 14 – New Phila kicker Storm Elsasser caresses a field goal off the left upright and through to begin the fourth quarter.

New Phila 17, Dover 17 – After taking the ball from their own one to midfield, Dover forces New Phila to punt. Tornadoes take over the ball on their own 15, and after nearly ending the game on an incomplete pass to Hess, Deneher sent the home crowd into a frenzy by splitting the uprights on a clutch 34-yard field goal to send things to OT.

New Phila 17, Dover 24 – Dover puts the pressure on when Sayre hits Hess for a diving catch in the corner of the end zone, putting the pressure on New Phila.

New Phila 24, Dover 24 – The Quakers answer immediately, scoring on their first play from the 25 when May finds Zemis yet again.

New Phila 31, Dover 24 – Zemis hangs on after getting drilled in the end zone on a 6-yard scoring strike from May.

New Phila 31, Dover 31 – Tornadoes storm right back in the second OT when Sayre pounds one in from the three, reaching out and touching the ball over the end zone line as he hits the turf.

New Phila 31, Dover 38 – Hess makes an unreal leaping catch in the back of the end zone of a Sayre pass to start overtime number three.

New Phila 38, Dover 38 – When it doubt, seek Zemis out. With a fifth TD catch from May, the game heads to the fourth overtime period.

New Phila 45, Dover 38 – Someone other than Zemis finds pay-dirt for New Phila as Kye Crowthers grinds his way in to the end zone from the six.

Final: New Phila 45, Dover 38 – A 12-yard sack from Anderson puts Dover in trouble. An incomplete screen pass makes it fourth down, and Sayre heaves one up into a crowd of what looks like a Dover-New Phila convention in the corner of the end zone. May, playing defensive back, roams over into the crowd and bats it down, ending one of the wildest games in the history of this storied rivalry.

“I saw everyone gathering in the corner, and I saw the ball go up, so I got over there to help out,” May said of the play. “I have always thought I have had good hand-eye coordination, so my only thought was to go up and knock it down. I am so proud of this team. Coach has told us all year long that we are winners, and we came out here and collectively made plays and won this game as a team.”

Player of the Game: Sam Zemis

Not only did Zemis score five touchdowns in the biggest game of his life to date, he also played a nearly flawless game at linebacker, where he made a number of key plays.

“I don’t have words to explain. That was just incredible. It is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Zemis said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming to Dover, but we knew that if it came down to it, we would pull out the win. These guys are my brothers. We are a tight-knit group, a family.”

Play of the Game 1

With all of the scoring going on in overtime, every score was precious, but it was really a defensive play that set the table for the Quakers’ victory.

With New Phila up after scoring a TD in the fourth overtime, it needed someone to step up and make a play on defense. They got it from Anderson, who crashed through the Tornadoes line, gave chase to Sayre and pulled the Dover quarterback to the ground for a 12-yard sack.

“I just did what I had to do to help my team win a game,” Anderson said after the game. “I knew someone had to go out and make a play.”

Play of the Game 2

Deneher is one heck of a prolific kicker. He can crush the football. Making 34-yarders is something he can do in his sleep. But Deneher wasn’t sleeping on this night. On this night he was trotting out to line up for a 34-yarder in front of a packed house of wildly screaming fans with seconds left, trying to make a 34-yarder that would mean the difference between staying alive and going home.

Deneher’s kick never wavered from the center of the uprights as he showed ice in his veins and sent the game into overtime. There are big field goals, but this one was a kick that showed exactly how good the Tornadoes kicker is when it comes right down to the most pressurized situations.

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