The final two minutes and 14 seconds is a span of time the Erie Community College football team would rather forget.
After seizing momentum and a 22-16 lead, the Kats just needed to run out the final 2:14.
Instead, two fumbles in the final two minutes and an opportunistic Hudson Valley defense gave the visiting Vikings a 23-22 win and the inaugural Northeast Conference Championship in front of 2,000 at Jim Ball Stadium. The loss dropped ECC to 7-4 overall, ending hopes of a junior college bowl bid.
A huge momentum swing in the Kats' favor, including scoring after recovering a fumbled punt and mounting an impressive red-zone defensive stand, gave them a 22-16 lead and possession of the ball with 2:14 to play.
But on the first play from scrimmage, Charles Bigham fumbled and Hudson Valley's Malcom King Jr. returned the ball 29 yards for a touchdown. The extra point by Bobby Collett gave the Vikings a 23-22 lead. Another fumble, this time by Duane Griffin, ensured that Hudson Valley (8-3) would win its third straight game over ECC.
Though the final two minutes are most painful, there were plenty of other miscues for the Kats. They missed two extra points -- one on a blocked Jason Fralicker kick and one on a bad snap that turned into a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Quarterback Adam Gaddie, who completed seven passes in the first half, did not have a completion in the second. And an apparent safety for the Kats off an amazing Fralicker punt was called back and ruled a touchback for Hudson Valley after officials ruled the Vikings' return man did have possession of the ball in the end zone.
"When I look in the mirror, I have to take it like a man and know that the other team just beat us," said ECC head coach Dennis Greene. "They were the better team today. . . . From a coaching standpoint, we laid out a game plan and we had them, but the players have to execute. We can't run, block, catch or tackle for them. They have to do their part. It was so close, but it just didn't come together today."
It was a game with numerous momentum shifts coming off turnovers, runbacks, muffed punts and various wild plays. Hudson Valley led, 7-6, at halftime, but ECC took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter. The Vikings responded with their own run for a 16-14 lead but the Kats looked to seal the deal when Hudson Valley fumbled on a punt return and the Kats recovered at the Vikings' 9. Griffin ran in for the touchdown on the next play and rushed for the two-point conversion and a 22-16 ECC lead.
"We told our guys that there would be a lot of swings in this game," Hudson Valley coach Bob Jojo said. "We know that (ECC) is a good team with great coaches and that they'd come back. We just had to be patient and know that we could do the same thing."
Griffin finished the game with 84 yards on 19 carries, while Chris Wooten had 12 tackles and Ben Bayer added 11, including nine solo stops.