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Field goal gives Lakers the win over Southington

October 20, 2012
By RICH KELLY - Special to Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

ANDOVER - It's always said that practice makes perfect. Pymatuning Valley kicker Austin Nowakowski might be the perfect example of that, using as many partners as he could in order to become the best kicker possible.

All that practice came into play as he drove a 37-yard field goal through the uprights with two seconds remaining to give the Lakers a thrilling 10-8 victory over Southington on Friday night at Laker Stadium.

"I just tried to remember the same things we work on in practice," Nowakowski said. "I've practiced a lot with my mom (Melody Nowakowksi) coaching me and I've been able to work with my brother, Grant, snapping and Tim Cross holding for several years.

"This was my first gamewinner and it feels really good."

The Wildcats (3-6, 0-3 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) had taken an 8-7 lead just seconds earlier.

Starting from their own 20-yard line with 3:22 left to play, the Wildcats drove the length of the field in 11 plays to reach the end zone with 29 ticks left on the clock. Jordan Dickey powered his way over left tackle from the 7-yard line, and coach Ryan Slone had his team go for two. Dickey smashed his way in to stun the Lakers and put Southington ahead, 8-7.

PV (3-6, 2-2) though has quick strike people, and when the ensuing kick went out of bounds, setting the Wildcats back 5 yards for another kickoff, the Lakers did not despair.

Cross returned the second kick to the Laker 45 with 25.3 seconds left.

Three straight passes from Ratliff to Cross, the third of which resulted in a perfectly executed hook and ladder play back to Ratliff, set up the Lakers at the Wildcat 20 with nine long seconds on the clock.

On all three of those plays, the Laker receiver did a perfect tiptoe job to make sure of the completions and then get out of bounds to stop the clock.

Nowakowski lined up for his kick, having had an earlier attempt blocked, but his focus was on the fundamentals he works so hard with each day and his line drive had everybody gasping and craning their necks as it cleared the crossbar by just inches to seal the win.

"Austin has worked hard as a kicker," PV coach Neal Croston said. "I think he's capable of booting them from about 40 yards in. He didn't hit this one with his best kick, but he got it hard enough to get it over the bar."

It was second heartbreaker in as many weeks for the Wildcats.

"Both teams are very young," Southington coach Ryan Slone said. "We've got a lot of first-year starters on our team. I know PV does as well, but I think the kids played their hearts out tonight for both teams. I told the kids after last week's game with Grand Valley that I am proud of the effort they have put in and I told them that again tonight.

"Both weeks we played to the very end with teams that drilled us last year and these close games show how far we've come. It's a shame a team has to lose games like this."

Perhaps the biggest play of the night, other than the final field goal kick, came with 7:32 left to play as the Wildcats drove toward what appeared to be their first score of the night.

Kelly is a freelance writer for the Ashtabula Star Beacon