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Herrison Ambe doesn't practice with the Eleanor Roosevelt High School football team. But Saturday afternoon, the Raiders carried him off the field in victorious celebration.
Such is the life of a placekicker.
Ambe delivered an exciting and improbable finish to what will undoubtedly be one of the best games in Prince George's County this season when he booted a 25-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Roosevelt to a 23-22 victory against three-time defending 4A South Region champion Henry A. Wise.
Playing before a boisterous crowd of roughly 1,200 on their homecoming day, the Raiders (3-0) squandered a 20-6 fourth-quarter lead. They trailed 22-20 when they took possession on their own 23-yard-line with no time outs and just over 2 minutes remaining. The exact time was a mystery to spectators, and maybe even to a lot of the players, as the scoreboard clock was not being used and the referees kept time on the field.
Summoned into duty for the second half after starting quarterback Shawn Petty was injured late in the first quarter, senior Tamlin Antoine marched Roosevelt deep into Wise territory. On third and 4 from the Pumas' 15-yard line, Antoine hit junior Wayne Cummings on a screen pass that Cummings converted into a first down at the Wise 8-yard line. Roosevelt coach Tom Green opted not to have Antoine spike the ball to stop the clock, and instead sent in his field goal unit. Tyrone Temoney was the holder and set the ball down at the 15-yard line, and Ambe drilled the game-winning kick with plenty of room to spare.
A member of the school's soccer team and commonly known as “soccer dude” by the Raiders' coaching staff, Ambe was afforded a genuine hero's treatment after connecting on the first field goal attempt of his high school career. He connected on one in a preseason scrimmage, but Saturday he was asked to attempt a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds of the rematch of last year's 4A South Region final.
“I had no idea that I was going to be kicking a field goal today,” Ambe said. “I knew that I was going to be kicking off, but I practice with the soccer team all week and then show up for football games on Saturday, so I didn't have a chance to practice any field goals this week. I made the one against Potomac in our scrimmage and I think I can make it from 40 yards away. But the coaches came to me before that last play and told me to get ready because we were going to try a field goal. It was so exciting. This is definitely the highlight of my sports career.”
With the scoreboard clock not operating in the second half, coaches constantly asked officials on the field how much time remained late in the fourth quarter. While Roosevelt was out of time outs for the last drive, but Wise coach DaLawn Parrish was forced to use his last two in order to settle his defensive unit. He used his final time out prior to the third down play that saw Antoine connect with Cummings on the screen pass that gave the Raiders a first down.
“I basically told them that if you want to win the game, you have to make a play right now,” Parrish said. “We did make a play, but they got the first down and they were still able to get their field goal unit on the field. That was a heck of a play on their part. You have to give them credit for getting their field goal unit on the field and for making the kick.”
Wise had won the previous five games between the two teams -- two in the regular season and three in the playoffs -- dating back to a Week 5 meeting in 2008 won by the Raiders, 24-22, after they trailed 22-0 in the third quarter. On that day, the Pumas had the ball on the doorstep of the Raiders' end zone and could have won with last-second field goal, but like most county teams, they did not have one. Wise also fell victim to a last-minute field goal in the 4A State championship game at M & T Bank Stadium in 2009, won by Old Mill, 17-16.
“If I would have had a kicker [in 2008] I could have won that game,” Parrish said. “Instead, we end the game with the ball at their 3-yard line.”
Saturday afternoon, Roosevelt twice took advantage of short fields to score touchdowns in the second half on runs of 8 and 3 yards from Cummings. His second TD gave the Raiders a 20-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. Wise responded with an eight-play, 61-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown run by Uriah Bethea. The Pumas claimed their first lead of the day when Andrew Thompson scored on a 14-yard reverse and Franklin Porter plowed forward for the 2-point conversion to give the visitors a 22-20 lead with 2:30 remaining.
Petty suffered a left foot injury in the first quarter and did not return to the game. The senior quarterback/linebacker, a University of Maryland recruit, missed about half the season last year with a broken collarbone.
“Hopefully he's OK and we can get him back soon,” Green said.
Eleanor Roosevelt 23, Wise 22
Wise (2-1) 0 6 0 16 -- 22
Eleanor Roosevelt (3-0) 6 0 6 11 -- 23
ER: Warren 20 run (run failed)
W: Bethea 3 run (run failed)
ER: Cummings 8 run (run failed)
ER: Cummings 3 run (Cummings run)
W: Bethea 9 run (White run)
W: Thompson 14 run (Porter run)
ER: Ambe 25 field goal
Rushing Leaders: W - Bethea 13-74; Powell 6-53; Porter 1-9, Thompson 1-14. E - Cummings 14-60, Warren 3-30, Antoine 7-61.
Passing Leaders: W - White 2-6-18. E - Petty 0-1-0, Warren 3-6-32, Antoine 3-4-41.
Receiving Leaders: W - Pascal 1-5, Porter 1-13. E - Cummings 3-29, Temoney 2-34, Jackson 1-10.