Bill Whittemore didn’t mind one bit that his first victory was delayed somewhat — by overtime.
In one of the most exciting games of the young season, Franklin Road Academy presented its youthful 31-year-old head coach with a win he probably won’t ever forget as it squeezed past Hillsboro 24-17 — in overtime — last Friday.
“It was a special day,” Whittemore, a former Tennessee Mr. Football winner and passing whiz for Brentwood High, said. “We barely got our new field turf finished the afternoon of the game.
“But I’ll remember it most because of the special group of guys we have on this team, who all are buying in to what we’re telling them. They are a group of guys who fights every bit of the way, and it’s exciting to be a part of something like that.”
FRA led 10-0 but Hillsboro fought back to tie twice, the last time at 17-17 on a 75-yard kickoff return by Robert Kelley.
Senior Dalton Ponchillia caught two touchdown passes, including the game-winner. On third and goal from the five in overtime, he curled underneath and found himself wide open for the decisive score.
His first touchdown reception covered 79 yards. He outleaped a defender for Matt Hissong’s throw, cut back to left, the sprinted to the end zone.
Ponchillia also booted a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter, intercepted a pass and went 3-for-3 on extra points.
“My adrenalin goes up when my number is called for a pass play,” Ponchillia, who finished with seven receptions for 134 yards, said. “The coaches tell me to jump up and get it, and that’s what I did on the long TD. In overtime, we had a new route, I just cut back inside and I was wide open, it was almost like a back-yard play.
“This was special, winning our first game on our new field turf, we’ll take pride in a win like this and hopefully keep it going.”
The game ended when junior linebacker Taylor Maitland stopped Kelley on a fourth-and-1 from the 4-yard line.
“I knew when I hit him, it was going to be short," Maitland said. “Considering the situation, I’d say it has to be the biggest tackle I’ve ever made.
“It was a great night, winning on our new turf.’’
With the victory, FRA evened its record a 1-1. It jumps back into Division II play with a trip to Davidson Academy on Friday.
• Burros well-equipped: Despite the loss, Hillsboro (1-1) seems to have a bright outlook given its wealth of offensive weapons.
The speedy Kelly broke off several long runs, including his long kickoff return, while quarterback Porter Streator hooked up with wide receiver Calvin Woods for several big gains.
Also, one of Hillsboro’s biggest weapons is senior kicker/punter Joseph Occhipinti who had another excellent night.
Occhipinti kicked a 29-yard field goal, went 2-of-2 on extra points, had 48 and 45-yard punts. All five of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. In the third quarter, his 49-yard field goal attempt was barely wide left.
So far this season, he is 10-of-10 on kickoffs for touchbacks and in the opener against Hillwood, two of his five went completely out of the end zone.
• Page on the air: Franklin Road Academy athletic director Kurt Page will join the Prep Football Talk show 8-9 a.m. Saturday on 102.5-FN The Game during the season. The show includes host Greg Pogue and Craig Ladd, the FRA radio announcer.
The show runs through Nov. 24.
• Ryan opens facility: Father Ryan opened its new Jim Carell Fitness Center during ceremonies recently.
About 1,000 of the Irish faithful were on hand for the dedication, which included remarks by Mayor Karl Dean. Bishop David Choby (1965) presided at Mass.
The new center has more than 15,000 square feet of space, including a new football locker room, new fitness and strength room which, with 4,500 square feet, is five times the size of the old one, a new Patrick Simpson Wrestling facility, named for the long-time Irish coach, a sports medicine room and a new team room with trophy cases. Another 15,000 feet was renovated to provide new locker rooms, offices, along with classroom and meeting spaces.
• Maplewood honors coach: Maplewood players wore “B.J.’’ stickers on the back of their helmets last Friday in their game against Brentwood Academy, in memory of former defensive backs coach Bryan Holt and died recently at age 35 of sickle-cell anemia. Many of the Maplewood students wore “B.J’’ buttons, as well.