LINWOOD - Mainland Regional High School football kicker Jim Cooper got a second chance to win the game against Oakcrest with a field goal in overtime Saturday night.
Cooper didn't miss, splitting the uprights with a 36-yarder that gave the Mustangs a 17-14 victory in the second overtime.
On Mainland's previous possession in OT, Cooper kicked one wide right from 33 yards.
"The first one looked good to me, but the the ref gets the final say," Cooper said. "I knew the team would get me another chance to win it."
Mainland is 2-2 overall, with its wins coming within a five-day span. The Mustangs beat Ocean City 35-6 on Monday in a game that was suspended the previous Friday due to lightning.
The victory put some happiness into Mainland's tragic season. Four of its players were killed in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway on Aug. 20.
"We've always had great fan support, but now there's a little more love with the support," Mainland coach Bob Coffey said. "Both teams were tremendous tonight."
The game was scoreless in the first half, with 12 combined punts. Return man Dashown Waller ignited the Mustangs when he took the second-half kickoff, found an opening and went 80 yards for a touchdown.
"Coach (Coffey) says 90 percent of games come down to special teams," Waller said. "Our offense couldn't get anything going at first, so we had to do it on special teams."
Remembering their friends who died is part of a constant routine for Mainland's players. Waller had the initials E.B. printed on both ankles in memory of Edgar Bozzi, one of his friends who was killed.
"Edgar Bozzi was one of my best friends," Waller said. "Every play of the game I play for them."
Oakcrest's Fabian Santiago ran 64 yards around right end for a score. But the extra-point kick was missed and Mainland led 7-6. Mainland went up 14-6 in the third quarter as quarterback Tom Bradway passed to Matt DeSalle for a 7-yard TD.
Oakcrest tied the game with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation on a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Stephen Atkinson scored from 36 yards out on a reverse. The Falcons added two points on another surprise as running back Brandon Bell took a handoff and passed to quarterback Quaashie Jetter.
"It was a classic game between two evenly-matched teams, and I knew it would come down to the end," Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said. "You can't give a kicker like Cooper two opportunities to win the game, but we did."
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