Rashad McKee called it a Hail Mary. Jay Minton said it was divine intervention. L’Christian ‘Blue’ Smith said it was the first time he’d puked after a touchdown catch. Fairmont fans likely puked, too.
Catching a 39-yard deflected pass from McKee in the end zone with 14.6 seconds left, Smith’s heroics lifted visiting Wayne to a stunning 35-28 victory at Roush Stadium in a Greater Western Ohio Conference National East game that carried heavy Division I, Region 3 playoff implications.
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Wayne improves to 6-2, 2-1, while Fairmont falls to 6-2, 0-2.
Facing third-and-11 at the Fairmont 39 with less than 30 seconds left, McKee pointed skyward after the snap to Smith who streaked down the visiting sideline. Fairmont’s Ryan Hall had perfect coverage on the play and appeared to intercept the ball as both he and Smith dove into the end zone. The ball somehow wiggled free and found its way into Smith’s hands as the duo landed.
“The last play we called Hail Mary,” said McKee, Wayne’s junior quarterback who ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more. “On my dropback I was looking to see where the safety was and I saw Blue was one-on-one. Ryan is a great corner and a great player, but I have faith in my guy. I have faith in Blue Smith. I threw it up and gave him a chance.”
Said Smith, who is committed to Ohio State: “It was all in the moment. I knew if I could get a hand on it, it would be mine. I just waited until it came down and timed it at the right moment. That was a big play for my team that I needed to make.”
Said Minton, Wayne’s coach: “I call it divine intervention. Great players make great plays, but on plays like that – they’ve got some help.”
Wayne needed all the aid it could get. Fairmont fought hard.
Despite gaining just two first downs in the first half, the hosts entered halftime trailing just 21-14. The Firebirds first touchdown – a 21-yard run by Jake Perkins – was set up by a Hall interception. Jesse Deglow’s 15-yard touchdown run – which followed a rare 70-yard pass from Braden Miller to David Stamer – gave the hosts a 14-7 lead with 10:53 to go in the second quarter.
The Firebirds first possession of the second half was a 96-yard, 14-play drive that lasted 7:31 and resulted in a 27-yard Deglow touchdown run and a 21-21 score. The Firebirds’ second drive of the second half went 77 yards and was capped by a five-yard run from Stamer that knotted the score 28-28.
With 2:28 left, Fairmont recovered a Wayne fumble and had momentum. Seven plays later the Firebirds were forced to punt.
“Way too much time,” McKee said. “We work scenarios at practice every Thursday and one of the scenarios we worked this week was 1:06 left and no timeouts. They gave us 1:10.”
Said Minton: “Crazy isn’t it. Tell me that’s not sent from up above.”
McKee, who finished 25-of-34 for 280 yards and added 67 rushing on 13 carries, hit Smith four times (for 75 yards) on the game-winning drive. Smith finished the night with nine catches for 135 yards and hit a milestone with his game-winning grab. It was the 35th touchdown reception of his career, which ranks 20th all-time in Ohio history.
“I’ve never thrown up after a touchdown, but I did after that one,” Smith said. “That tells you how exhausted I was after that drive.
“It was totally worth it.”