By Rick Dunaway
Special to The Globe
PIERCE CITY, Mo. —
Cole Lowry scored three touchdowns and set up his own game-winning score with a 40-yard pass reception Friday night as McAuley Catholic defeated Pierce City 42-41 in a wild see-saw battle.
Lowry scored twice from 1 yard out and again from 9 yards out, but he and fellow junior Greg Carney pulled off some critical third- and fourth-down plays to collect the Warriors’ first road victory of the season.
McAuley (5-3) gambled frequently on fourth down and usually came up big, creating a huge frustration for Pierce City coach Matt Holt.
“We played all right defense, but on (fourth) and 12 we don’t make a play, and third and long we don’t make a play,” Holt said. “You’ve got to get the stop on the money downs. On third and fourth downs we have got to make the plays, and we didn’t.”
Particularly back-breaking for the Eagles was Lowry’s 40-yard circus catch from quarterback Mitch Wear on fourth-and-12. That catch, while draped by a defender, turned a fizzling drive at McAuley’s own 36-yard line to a serious threat at Pierce City’s 36.
Wear got the Warriors down to the 1-yard line with two carries — the second a 21-yard scamper — and Lowry punched it in from there with 3 minutes, 20 seconds remaining.
Pierce City (3-5) had its chance for fourth-down magic in the waning moments, but McAuley intercepted Eagles quarterback Kole Kelley at the 20-yard line, and McAuley ran out the clock.
Eight lead changes marked the wild affair that saw both a McAuley player and a McAuley fan ejected before it was over.
Carney scored on a 12-yard run to open the scoring for McAuley, then caught a 48-yard toss from Wear to give the Warriors the lead for the second time at 14-7.
Anthony Bertoncino scored McAuley’s other touchdown on a 13-yard carry in the second quarter.
While McAuley generally gambled and won, it lost big on a fake punt from its own 6-yard line in the third quarter, as Colton Drollinger met Lowry one yard shy of the first-down marker.
McAuley coach Brenden Gubera said Lowry had the option to try the fake punt.
“We put a special, talented athlete back there,” Gubera said. “He went for the edge, and he was pretty close. He’s an athlete trying to make plays, and as a coach you’ve gotta love it.”
Lowry made two circus catches in the game, drawing further praise from Gubera.
“Cole Lowry went up and made a great catch,” Gubera said. “You’ve got to let your great athletes play. You’ve got to put it in their hands when it’s crunch time.”
Pierce City’s Cedric O’Hara burned the Warriors with an 80-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, and Caleb Laswell did likewise in the second quarter with an 18-yard interception return.
Kelley, meanwhile, scored on runs of 1, 18 and 1 yards.