Athoe's interception puts Hornets in finals
Josh Athoe wasn't even supposed to be on the field Saturday afternoon.
The Oakfield-Alabama junior suffered a horrific broken leg at the start of last baseball season and was told he wasn't going to play baseball last year, or football this year.
But midway through the season, he got cleared from the doctor and has been seeing quality time for the Hornets as both a fullback and defensive back.
That alone makes for a great story.
Add in the fact that his interception was the biggest play of the game in O-A's 14-0 win over Pembroke in the Section 5 Class C semifinal game at Aquinas High School, and you've got a blockbuster.
The game was everything you would expect from the Pembroke/Oakfield-Alabama rivalry as both squad's defenses were stingy and scoring opportunities were few and far between.
The Dragons had one realistic chance to put points on the board in the first quarter, but turned the ball over on downs at the O-A 26-yard line.
The Hornets started marching early in the second quarter, but Andrew Wright intercepted an A.J. Kehlenbeck pass at the Pembroke 7.
There was some controversy soon after that as Chris Williams seemed to pull down Pembroke quarterback David Kleckler in the end zone, but officials said Kleckler got the ball away first and ruled it an incomplete pass.
After a short punt, O-A had great field position and set up a 33-yard field goal attempt by Jon Fisher, who set the Section 5 single game record for PATs in last week's 63-34 victory over Dansville. Fisher's kick missed its target and there was still no score.
After Kleckler ripped off a 22-yard run, the Dragons were in business with very little time left before the break. Kleckler tossed one up towards the end zone, but Tim Smith pulled it down for the Hornets with just five seconds left in the half.
Pembroke received the second half kickoff and immediately began moving the ball down the field as Kleckler and Wright hooked up on a 20-yard pass.
But that drive came to a quick stop and wound up giving Oakfield-Alabama its first score of the game.
Kleckler tossed up a pass for Ken Babcock that Athoe snagged and returned about 60 yards for the TD. The extra point failed and O-A led 6-0.
There were three straight possessions without a first down before the third quarter ended.
The Hornets started a drive near the end of the frame and carried a five minute long drive into the fourth quarter before being faced with a fourth down. Fisher had an amazing put that rolled out of bounds at the Pembroke 1-yard line, giving the Dragons nearly impossible field position.
Kleckler found Babcock on a 10-yard pass and then ran for 11 yards, but Smith broke up a pass intended for Babcock on a fourth-and-4 at the Pembroke 29, with about four minutes left.
The Hornets marched down the short field, taking time off the clock, and wound up drawing Pembroke offsides on a fourth-and-2 inside the 5.
Smith scored on a 1-yard run a few plays later, then ran in the two-point conversion for the final tally.
Pembroke falls to 7-2, with both losses coming at the hands of rival Oakfield-Alabama.
The Hornets are a perfect 9-0 and will be playing top-seeded Le Roy (9-0) in the finals next Friday night at PAETEC Park.