LEOMINSTER — Doherty defensive back Sam Harris could not believe the ball slipped off his fingertips, as he almost intercepted Wahconah quarterback Ethan Wells’s pass in the end zone with just more than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
But he quickly wiped it from his memory. Two plays later, on fourth and goal, Harris swatted Wells’s pass away from Cole Morrison to force a turnover on downs.
On the wings of Harris’s defensive stop, the Highlanders took over from their 6 and ran 5:48 off the clock as Doherty beat Wahconah, 22-16, at Doyle Field Saturday to advance to the Division 4 Super Bowl Dec. 7 against Dennis-Yarmouth.
“I saw the ball in the air and just couldn’t believe it hit my hands, I was so frustrated,” Harris said. “I kept my head up and had a feeling they’d come back to me.”
On the final possession, Doherty (10-1) converted a pair of fourth-down conversions to extend the drive and deplete Wahconah’s timeouts.
Facing fourth and 6 from the Wahconah 30, Doherty quarterback Luke Brennan rushed 11 yards to pick up the first down, but the Highlanders were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which brought the ball back to the 30.
Then, on fourth and 1, Brennan was nearly sacked, but delivered a crushing stiff arm to break free from a Wahconah defender and picked up the first down to seal the victory.
“I didn’t think I had it at first, but I just kept moving my legs and kept pumping,” Brennan said.
Brennan also was the driving force behind Doherty’s comeback, as the Highlanders rattled off 22 straight points to rally from a 16-0 first-quarter deficit.
With 55 seconds to play in the first half, Wahconah’s punt was blocked, and Brennan delivered a 16-yard touchdown to Alfred Adarkwah that gave Doherty a 22-16 halftime lead.
“Our kids responded,” Doherty coach Sean Mulcahy said.
The comeback began with 8:37 to play in the second quarter when Brennan rushed for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 16-6. Wahconah (10-1) fumbled the ensuing kickoff, recovered it, but was pinned at its 2. Then Wells was sacked in the end zone for a safety that made it 16-8.
Two possessions later, Doherty running back Jahkari Carpenter rushed for a 42-yard touchdown, and Brennan hit Mitch Celaj for the game-tying 2-point conversion.