Gorman: The catch that tied a record held by many
When a New Brighton punt pinned Beaver Falls inside its own 1-yard line with the Tigers trailing, 31-26, late in the game, Sage Curry was worried that they would lose.
Beaver Falls had cut a 24-point halftime deficit to five, but the idea of pulling off a 99-yard scoring drive in the final five minutes appeared unimaginable.
Little did Curry know the Tigers would win the Little Brown Jug, 34-31, or that he would provide the heroics in record fashion.
But only after first serving as the game's goat.
On first down, Beaver Falls ran for a short gain, getting the ball to the 1. On second down, quarterback Dan Stratton found Curry alone in the middle, but his pass bounced off the junior tight end's fingertips.
The pass, Curry said, hit the ring finger on his right hand, which was shattered after being crushed between two helmets a few weeks earlier at Beaver.
“The doctor said he only sees that from construction workers,” Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said. “They set it, and he'd been in a cast for two weeks.”
Beaver Falls offensive coordinator Ron Shiro noticed that New Brighton was double-covering junior receiver Elijah Cottrill, leaving one man wide open. Shiro urged Matsook to call the same play, out of a different formation.
“He said, ‘They're doubling Elijah. They're scared to death of him,' ” Matsook said. “So we came back to it.”
This time, instead of using a formation with one tight end, the Tigers tried a two-tight end set with two flankers. The play, 42 Counter Go, involved what Matsook called a “cheapie” play-action fake upon which all four receivers release on fly patterns.
Curry understood the gravity of the stakes.
“I was like, it's third-and-10. I've got to do something,” Curry said. “If we didn't do anything, we probably would have lost the game.”
Stratton rolled left and found Curry open again. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, who has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, caught it and then exceeded everyone's expectations.
“We really were not looking to score a touchdown. We were looking for the first down,” Matsook said. “Sage did the rest on his own. He broke a couple tackles, turned into the Incredible Hulk at the 35 and ran away from the rest of them after that.”
Yes, Curry scored a 99-yard touchdown reception, tying a record held by many for longest offensive play in WPIAL history.
It was his only catch of the game, yet provided the winning points. Curry has four receptions for 290 yards this season, an astounding average of 72.5 yards per catch.
Curry never thought he would score on the play. He broke the first two tackles and shrugged off a third defender but started to slow down and figured he would get caught from behind.
No one came close.
“As soon as I got in the end zone,” Curry said, “I was like, ‘Wow, that was 99 yards.' That never happens in high school — or any level of football — especially with a tight end.”
Curry learned to never say never, even when 99 yards from the end zone.