The easy call might have been to run the ball, but there was nothing straightforward about New Berlin West's win over Milwaukee Lutheran on Friday.
With the ball inches away from the goal line and 0.5 seconds on the clock, Bryan Boyd came down with a Nate Egofske pass in the end zone to give the Vikings a 36-34 victory over the Red Knights.
The touchdown pass completed what was a crazy, final, 15-play drive by New Berlin West in which the Vikings overcame a 1st and 32, nearly fumbled into the end zone and almost didn't have enough time to run the winning play.
"That was as wild of a finish as I've ever been a part of," New Berlin West coach Ben Chossek said.
After Milwaukee Lutheran (0-2) scored and converted a two-point conversion to take a 36-30 lead, New Berlin West (1-1) took over on its own 17-yard line with 3:51 to play.
On 3rd and 15 from their own 37-yard line, Egofske hit Nick Paget for a 20-yard gain to the Red Knights' 43 with 54.3 seconds on the clock.
A holding penalty followed by a false start pushed New Berlin West back to its own 35-yard line and left the Vikings with a 1st and 32. After Paget caught a 5-yard pass, Egofske found Joseph Robey over the middle for a 35-yard gain to the Milwaukee Lutheran 25-yard line with 33.8 left.
Facing 4th and 6 from the 13-yard line, Egofske connected with Paget, who lost the ball into the end zone while stretching for the goal line. The officials ruled Paget down at the 1-yard line with 5.2 seconds to play.
Max Meleski was stuffed on a handoff up the middle on the following play. With the clock showing zeros, Milwaukee Lutheran charged the field thinking it had made a goal-line stand to win. However, Chossek had been screaming for a timeout. The side judge granted New Berlin West a timeout with 0.5 left.
Instead of trying again with Meleski, the Vikings ran a passing play that worked for them all night long.
Boyd came down with the ball, leaving New Berlin West to storm the field in celebration.
"That was our go-to play," Egofske said. "I threw the slant a bunch of times, so I knew they were going to double cover that. The kid bit, so I just lobbed it up for Bryan."
It was the success of the passing game that left Chossek confident to throw the ball rather than give it to Meleski, who had already ran for 209 yards and four scores.
"We knew they were going to bring a lot of people," Chossek said. "We had some success in that formation throwing the ball. We had all of our best perimeter players out there and felt like that was our best opportunity to win a one-on-one battle. It worked out."
Meleski scored on runs of 3 yards and 57 yards in the first half, and Egan Iwanski hit a 27-yard field goal as the second quarter expired to give New Berlin West a 16-12 halftime lead.
Milwaukee Lutheran took the first drive of the third quarter 82 yards in 13 plays to score on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Josiah Hedrington to Kenneth Daniel.
Meleski broke a 57-yard touchdown run with 4:38 left in the third quarter to put New Berlin West back up at 23-19.
The Red Knights were driving to retake the lead when Robey stripped Rylee Maas and the Vikings pounced on the ball in the end zone for a touchback. After New Berlin West went three and out, Milwaukee Lutheran muffed the punt and the Vikings recovered at the Red Knights' 32-yard line.
New Berlin West turned the turnover into a touchdown when Meleski scampered in from 11 yards out to extend the Vikings' lead to 30-19 with 9:18 left.
Milwaukee Lutheran fights
Milwaukee Lutheran wasn't done yet, as it quickly got back into the game on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Hedrington to Derick Harris. The Red Knights converted the two-point conversion to pull to within 30-27.
Milwaukee Lutheran forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with 5:37 to play. The Red Knights took a 34-30 lead on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Hedrington to Isaiah Owens.
"They took advantage of an opportunity and got right back in it," Chossek said. "You could feel (the first long touchdown) pick them up. We knew they were dangerous. They are very talented on the perimeter. We knew that could happen at any time. We did our best to avoid it, but it got them some momentum. That got them a stop, and all of a sudden we were down four."
Egofske completed nine passes for 97 yards on the final drive to finish 21-for-34 for 180 yards. Paget caught five of those passes for 50 yards and finished with 11 receptions for 108 yards.
The experienced gained by playing an overtime game and pulling out a win in the final seconds of a game will only help the young Vikings as they head into Woodland Conference play.
"These are the type of games you have to win if you want to advance beyond the regular season," Chossek said. "Time will tell if we're good enough to do that, but you have to find a way when you don't play perfectly or things aren't going your way to rally. We did that tonight. That's exciting."