Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Zack Walker goes over the top. Fort Thomas lost a heartbreaker after three overtimes, 66-58.
By L. Scott Bennett
FORT THOMAS – The Fort Thomas Apaches’ season came to an end Friday night in what can only be described as the most exciting high school football game of the year. In a contest that saw thre overtime’s and a combined 124 points, the Joseph City Wildcats outlasted the Apaches 66-58 and move on to the second round of the 1A State Playoffs, while the Apaches will have to pack up their pads for another year.
The Wildcats were the first to get on the scoreboard. After getting the ball with a short field, Joseph City needed just seven plays to move the ball 39 yards for the score. After a missed 2-point attempt, the Wildcats were up by six midway through the first quarter.
The Apaches quickly answered back, however, after converting a fourth down at midfield to keep the drive alive. Junior signal caller Tod Stringfellow finished the drive with a 3-yard TD run. The 2-point conversation failed and the game was tied 6-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The teams continue to trade touchdowns, with Stringfellow finding Tagipo “Tiny” Fiame on a screen pass for the TD, and then hit Drake Oliver for the 2-point conversion to once again knot the game up, this time at 14 apiece.
Stringfellow put the Apaches up 22-14 as the teams headed into halftime after hitting his second touchdown pass of the game with a 31-yard strike to Zack Walker. Fiame then leapt over the defense for the 2-point conversion.
The Apaches started to extend their lead in the second half after Kendrick Stanley came up with an interception. Stringfellow immediately followed up that play with a 49-yard pass. Two plays later, Stringfellow dove in from 2-yards out and Fort Thomas was up 30-14.
After both teams scored again, Joseph City cut the deficit to 10 but Fort Thomas responded when Stringfellow hit Terrold Robertson in stride for another TD. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Apaches had what seemed to be a comfortable 44-28 lead.
Then, the improbable comeback started, first with a questionable pass interference call on 4th and 8 at the Apaches’ 31, which kept Joseph City’s drive alive. The Wildcats scored, got a 2-point conversion and were down just 44-36.
Fort Thomas failed to run out the clock, and with just 34.4 seconds left in the game, Joseph City tied the game at 44-44. The teams then went into overtime, in which each team gets a set of downs from the 10-yard line.
The Wildcats got the try first and scored but failed to convert the 2-point attempt. Stringfellow then took it in from the 10-yard line on first down, but the Apaches couldn’t get the 2-point conversion either, and the first overtime ended at 50 apiece.
Fort Tomas then started the second overtime, and Stringfellow found Darian McCabe for the TD. The 2-point conversion was good, and the Apaches were up 58-50. The Wildcats responded in kind, however, and the teams went into a third overtime at 58-58.
Joseph City punched it in on third down and converted the 2-point conversion. However, Fort Thomas was held out of the end zone, and the visitors left the field with the victory, 66-58.
In the end, the Apaches scored eight TD’s, with Stringfellow involved in every one, rushing for three and throwing for five.
Fort Thomas head coach Bracken Walker was disappointed but magnanimous after the game and was complimentary to not only his squad but to Joseph City as well. He was also diplomatic when specifically asked about the pass interference call that ultimately cost the Apaches the game.
“That’s the toughest call in football, pass interference, and I thought it was a tough call against us but the referee was right there, so you kind of have to trust his judgement on that.”
Walker also praised his senior class.
”This is a great senior class,” Walker said. “They really changed the culture and our mindset of being at practice everyday and sacrificing and making sure that they got here and that they get better. A lot of those kids were really bad as freshman and then turned out to be great players. And that is a testament to them.”
With the loss, the season is over for the Apaches, and they will say goodbye to many key seniors, including Kendall Stanley, Drake Oliver, and Tagipo Fiame. However, many will return, including quarterback Todd Stringfellow, Jeremiah Bullis, and Zack Walker. Fort Thomas is sure to be as loaded with talent next year and as exciting to watch. We will see you next year Apaches, as we look forward to the 2019 season in Fort Thomas.