NORTH EASTON —Mike McMillan had his pads off and his left arm wrapped in a sling by the time Oliver Ames had finished a 35-7 victory against Sharon on Thursday.
The senior sprained his shoulder trying to make a catch in the third quarter and didn’t return.
But McMillan helped create a lifetime of memories before he was injured, making an improbable catch that changed the tenor of the game.
Sharon, one of the best teams in the Hockomock League, scored a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the first half, Jared Fogel pulling down a 40-yard heave on fourth down from quarterback Sean O’Neill.
The Eagles were down, 14-7, but the long pass had them back in a game the Tigers were dominating to that point.
Plenty of high school coaches would have taken a knee and headed for the locker room. But Oliver Ames coach Jim Artz had his team attack.
“You’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “[Sharon] is very good. We knew what we had to do in this game to win.”
After a 20-yard kickoff return by Mike Ferrara, Artz called a hook-and-ladder that was executed perfectly. Greg Cummings caught a pass at midfield from quarterback Nick Cidado and flipped a lateral to McMillan. He ran another 20 yards.
After two incomplete passes, Cidado fired the ball into the end zone. Artz told McMillan to stay on his feet and look for a tip from Cummings.
Remarkably, it worked. With no time on the clock, Cummings saw the ball bounce off a defender’s helmet and batted it toward McMillan. He caught it for a 30-yard touchdown.
“I said to let the other two jump and make it a volleyball game,” Artz said. “Stay behind and clean it up. They listened, finally. I don’t know how they did it.”
McMillan was astonished.
“I came behind and snagged it,” he said. “I saw it go in the air and I grabbed it and stayed in bounds. That gave us the momentum back. This game was a lot of fun because of plays like that.”
A 2-point conversion gave the Tigers a 22-7 lead.
“We were playing well at that point,” Sharon coach Dave Morse said. “It was a shame that Hail Mary put some points on the board for them. But we’ve got to make plays.”
Cidado, a junior with a strong arm, was 12 of 22 for 176 yards and four scores. Cummings caught 10 passes for 106 yards and touchdowns of 13, 37, and 5 yards. Cummings also kicked three extra points.
Oliver Ames has won 29 of the last 31 Thanksgiving games against Sharon. The Tigers finished 6-5.
“It’s definitely much better than 5-6,” Cummings said. “It makes you feel a little better knowing that we beat a team that’s going to the playoffs.”
Sharon (8-3) was held to 176 yards, 10 in the second half. But the Eagles already had secured a spot in the Division 3 semifinals on Tuesday against Pembroke. This is their first winning season since 1988.