The game was good, the emotions were high and Heritage coach Casey Kolkman was speechless afterwards.
It was a good night for those who call Monroeville home after the host Patriots scored a long-sought signature win – a 28-27 win over South Adams on Friday.
In the end, it was a two-minute drill punctuated by an 18-yard pass from Kobe Meyer to Adam Whitman that helped the Patriots edge out a win. Of course, it would be a mistake to not mention Moe Min Aung’s extra point that actually propelled Heritage to the win.
But Meyer was on a different wave length during the final 129 seconds of the game.
“Kid’s a gamer, isn’t he?” said Kolkman. “He’s a gunslinger-type kid. He wants to run the ball, he wants to throw it around, he wants that. Kobe is almost better when he doesn’t have time to think.
“Actually at the end of the game, he’s probably a better player because he doesn’t have time to process and overthink stuff.”
After Mav Summersett gave South Adams a 27-21 lead on a 3rd-and-goal from the four-yard line with 2:09 left, the Patriots could have packed things up.
“We had a chance to stop them, we didn’t (and) they go down and score,” Kolkman said. “It could have been over right then, but then (we went) right down the field.
“I would love to say that was coaching, but that was all them boys on the field. They got it done, plain and simple.”
Heritage could have said good effort following the Starfires’ go-ahead score. Could have said that at least they pushed one of the league’s top programs for four quarters.
Instead, Meyer went to work, opening the drive with a 17-yard run to midfield and following it up with passes that chipped away at yardage into Starfire territory. Meyer worked the ball to Adam and Tanner Whitman, getting the ball to the 18-yard line to bring up 3rd-and-6 with 36 seconds left.
South Adams was solid and was pumped up at the chance to get a stop. The defense rushed at Meyer and made him scramble all over the backfield before he spotted Whitman open in the back of the right side of the endzone; all he needed to do was drop it in his hands and he did.
The poignant moment was a great bookend for a solid game that saw both teams have their moments.
South Adams came out swinging, going up 13-0 with a hurry-up offense that had Heritage shook. The Patriots struggled to get into position as the Starfires picked them apart any way they wanted for much of the first quarter.
“(The conversation was) just to settle down, to relax,” said Kolkman about the early-game struggles. “They weren’t doing anything (different), they were just doing it faster. So it’s the idea of having to process quicker, which was a great strategy by them. The coverage we were in, they were ripping it apart so we had to get out of it. Once we got out of it, that helped us a lot.”
It looked like it could have been another South Adams rout until midway through the second quarter when Heritage put its first score on the board, then took away the kickoff on a fumble. Three plays later with 6:51 left in the first half, Meyer punched it in from 16 yards out, right up the gut, to give the Patriots a 14-13 lead.
The teams traded strong defensive stances as the second half started. A blocked punt in the second half of the quarter led to a Meyer rushing touchdown that pushed Heritage’s lead to 21-13.
South Adams looked to answer before the end of the quarter, but fumbled the ball six yards short of the goal line. Heritage couldn’t take advantage to start the fourth as it fumbled the snap on a punt to give the ball right back to South Adams minutes later.
One play later, Summersett jetted in from 10 yards out, but the Starfires couldn’t convert on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game.
After another forced punt, the Stafires got the ball back with 6:42 to play and Wanner consistently targeted Isaac Dee to get up the field. With 2:09 left, the Starfires took the late lead as Summersett stretched with every inch of his arm across the goal line on a four-yard run.
The rest was in the hands of the legs and arm of Meyer.
The win marks Heritage’s first over South Adams since 2015 and Kolkman’s first since beating the Starfires in 2012 as the head coach at Bluffton.
Even bigger, the Patriots have their best start through four games since 2014 when they started 3-1 for the third-straight season. The team has started 1-5 in each if the previous two seasons since Kolkman took over the job in 2020.
One-third of Heritage’s wins in Kolkman’s time leading the program have now come this season. It is a start that Monroeville hasn’t been used to in recent years and speaks to what Kolkman has built.
After the game, Kolkman took it all in before he talked to his team and even let the win percolate during the postgame huddle, not getting wordy in fear of overshadowing the moment for his players.
“There are seniors on this team that have been through a lot,” Kolkman said. “Our first year even, we got blistered by some people but they hung around, they kept coming back.
“To get this win for them, it is emotional and it should be. When you fight through that kind of adversity for all those years and you are the stepping stone for everybody…now to get this, let’s see. Let’s just see, I mean I don’t know (what happens next), but it sure feels good to be 3-1.”
Meyer finished with 155 yards passing and 118 yards rushing with three total touchdowns. Heritage was 8-of-16 on third down in the game.
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