SUGARCREEK - Chris Durkin was waiting all week, check that, all year for this.
The 6-foot-4, 213-pound Ursuline High School junior quarterback did a quick three-step drop from the Irish 43, squared his shoulder and connected with a streaking Shannon Hightower down the left side.
Hightower reached out and seemingly got in for the score off the play-action pass, but it was 1-yard short.
Jermaine Williams rumbled in from 1-yard out to give Ursuline a quick lead on the game's first two plays in this Division V, Region 17 football quarterfinal.
"We had that scripted since day one, watching film," said Durkin, who was 9 of 15 for 213 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "I've been waiting for it, for Saturday night to come, for me to throw that pass. We did and Shannon did a real good job. I wish he would've got in the end zone. He keeps telling me he did, but we'll watch it on film and be the judge of that."
Although seventh-seeded Ursuline (7-4) took a 30-point lead in the first quarter, it was far from over as second-seeded Garaway (10-1) made this game a shootout the Irish eventually won, 64-48.
Ursuline now plays Cuyahoga Heights next week in a Region 17 semifinal at a site to be determined.
The Irish pressured 5-9, 160 Garaway senior quarterback Tyler Walter most of the first quarter, frustrating the mobile signal caller from all directions.
Ursuline got away from that late in the first quarter, giving the Pirates their opening. They quickly took advantage as Garaway scored with 5.3 seconds left in the first on a Logan Wilson 1-yard run. Walter and the Garaway passing game came to life.
"We got lazy defensively and we played man coverage all night," Ursuline coach Larry Kempe said. "I just told the boys if you give a quarterback 5, 6, 7, 8 seconds, then he's going to make passes. We weren't making tackles that period of the first quarter."
Add to Ursuline's defensive woes was that defensive end Khallid Pierce was knocked out late in the first half. Kempe said he just has a shoulder issue.
"He'll be fine next week," Kempe said.
Ursuline also missed some tackles after Walter, who was 21 of 35 for 385 yards and five scores with one pick, passed mostly short slants on the Irish defense.
Kempe said his younger players on defense will learn from that and the team will correct those problems next week. But, he wanted to stress that Garaway got back into Saturday's game because they're athletic.
"Garaway is a very good football team," Kempe said. "They're 10-0 for a reason and that is they're good. They've got good, fine athletes and I think they play well. I don't care who they play, when they play, but they play well."
That said, Ursuline has to get back to putting pressure on the quarterback.
"My problem is our front," Kempe said. "We brought pressure from four different areas. We put pressure on them. Unlike we did in the first quarter, we didn't put them on the ground. We have to put them on the ground. I'm more disappointed in our front than I am in our secondary."
Walter put pressure on Ursuline from the second quarter on, eventually closing the Irish gap to 50-36 on a 65-yard strike to Josh Werker with 8:53 left in the third quarter. However, Walter's main target was Winston Mullet, who had seven catches for 133 yards and a TD.
"It's unbelievable," Walter said. "We've been in games like this. Last year, we played Kirtland. That's what made this happen. We got the crap kick out of us and we fought, fought and fought. We learned how to fight. We learned not to give up.
"It's a great group of guys. I couldn't be happier with our effort."
Durkin said none of this offensive prowess is possible without his guys up front.
"Once they got their passing game going, it kind of scared us a little bit, but we knew what needed to be done," Durkin said. "Props to our O-line for playing a great game. When they play a great game, we tend to win."