DeGRAFF — Veteran Lehman Catholic coach Dick Roll was excited after the team’s first win of the season on Friday and wanted the squad to sing the school’s alma mater.
“I still don’t know all the words, so don’t expect me to sing,” Roll told the players before they sang the song.
And while he may not have been able to sing the alma mater, he sang praises for the squad after a gutsy 27-20 victory over Riverside in a thriller in De Graff. The win ended a three-game losing streak top open the season and gives the Cavaliers (1-3, 1-0 NWCC) momentum at the start of conference play.
“This was a great game to watch this unfold,” Roll said. “The fans on both sides of the field sure got their money’s worth tonight.
“This is the first triple overtime game of my career. My hat’s off to both teams for the way they played.”
It’s was a big early season showdown between two of the league’s most consistent programs. Lehman has won the NWCC title outright or shared each of the last three seasons while Riverside has finished second or third in the same time. The Pirates shared the NWCC title in 2015.
The Cavaliers had a 20-6 lead and seemed to be on their way to closing out the win when Riverside got back in it.
Riverside junior quarterback Kale Long took off on a 54-yard run early in the first drive after Lehman scored to go ahead by two touchdowns. A Lehman penalty resulted in 15 yards getting tacked onto the run, and Long ran it on the next play. The squad made a two-point conversion to pull within 20-14 midway through the third quarter.
Quarterback R.J. Bertini was sacked on a third-and-10 on Lehman’s next drive, and the ball was then snapped over the head of the punter on the next play to give Riverside a short field.
Not long after, Long took off and ran for 31 yards and a touchdown. The Pirates missed the extra point, though, resulting in the score staying tied 20-20 with 1:35 left in the third.
Lehman moved it well on its next drive but came up empty after four consecutive incomplete passes. Riverside followed by gaining several first downs on its next drive, but Long was sacked on a fourth down pass attempt. The clock ran out while the Cavaliers had the ball, which sent the game to overtime.
It took awhile for either team to get going, though, as both committed turnovers on the first four possessions in overtime and double overtime.
Lehman fumbled in the first overtime, and Riverside then did the same. The Pirates started with the ball in double overtime, and Long had a pass intercepted. The Cavaliers then fumbled again.
Lehman got the ball first in triple overtime. After two big runs by Andrew Barhorst, Bertini threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brendan O’Leary to put the squad ahead 27-20 after an extra point.
A holding penalty wiped out a big run on Riverside’s first offensive play in the third overtime. Long then threw three incomplete passes and was intercepted by Bertini in the end zone on fourth down to end the game.
Bertini had a hand in all four of Lehman’s TDs. He completed 10-of-27 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns with one interception and also ran for a team-high 51 yards and one TD on five carries. Barhorst finished with 31 rushing yards and Tyler Sollmann finished with 37.
O’Leary, who had a big game last week in a loss to Graham, followed with another big game as he caught seven passes for 158 yards. He caught all three of Bertini’s TD passes.
Long unofficially led the Pirates with 226 rushing yards on 26 carries and completed 3-of-11 passes for 18 yards. Kaden Burk ran 13 times for 38 yards.
Riverside received the opening kickoff and had to punt. The punt attempt went straight in the air and ending up bouncing for two yards to give Lehman the ball at the Pirates’ 33. Riverside held, though, and forced a turnover on downs.
The Pirates got going on the next drive. After Long ran for a first down on a third-and-one and followed with a 22-yard run, Burk ran in for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first to give the squad a 6-0 lead after a missed PAT.
The Cavaliers quickly struck back as Bertini threw a 56-yard TD pass to O’Leary to put the squad ahead 7-7.
Lehman picked off a pass by Long and but Riverside sophomore DB Landon Stewart intercepted a Bertini pass soon after. A bad snap that went over the head of Long was recovered by Lehman.
The Cavaliers scored soon after on a 4-yard run by Bertini to increase the lead to 14-6 late in the second quarter.
Lehman pushed its lead to 20-6 with 9:31 left in the third quarter after Bertini threw a 30-yard TD pass to O’Leary.
Lehman will look to start a winning streak when it travels to Ridgemont (0-4) in NWCC action next Friday. The Golden Gophers have been outscored 195-76 in their first four games.
Riverside will look to bounce back when it travels to Marion Elgin. The Comets have 150-76 in three games; they forfeited their Week 2 game due to low numbers.