Oct. 29—ITALY — It took a wild, two-point conversion play and a late touchdown pass, but no one at Kerens cares what it took to come back and beat Italy Friday night on the road. The Bobcats were too busy celebrating the fact their 23-20 victory at Italy clinched a playoff spot for Kerens.
Kerens quarterback Lane Lynch, the top passer in the Golden Circle, led the way against Italy. He completed 22-of-39 passes for 232 yards and two crucial touchdowns, including a pretty 6-yard pass to Muziq Gunnell late in the fourth quarter that lifted Kerens over Italy and into the playoffs.
Lynch's final TD of the night turned a 20-16 Italy lead into a 23-20 victory for the Bobcats, who swapped points with the Gladiators through three quarters, forging 7-7 and 14-14 ties, before Mykel Lattimore broke through with a play he and the Bobcats won't soon forget.
Italy broke the 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter, scoring on an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but the Gladiators followed the touchdown with a nightmarish PAT attempt.
The snap went through the holder's hands, opening the door for a chaotic and — in Kerens' view — wonderful opportunity. Hunter Crawford, who was rushing the kick, swatted the ball away and in the wild, free-for-all that followed Lattimore, a swift and speedy wide receiver, scooped the ball up and raced the length of the field for a two-point conversion that closed the gap to 20-16.
Lynch drove Kerens to the Italy 6-yard-line in the waning moments and delivered with the winning touchdown pass to Gunnell, who caught six Lynch passes for 92 yards and the winning TD. Gunnell also scored on a 3-yard run to give the Bobcats a 14-14 tie in the second quarter.
Lattimore was busy all night, catching 11 passes for 91 yards and scoring on a short pass to give the Bobcats a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. Adrian Solis followed the TD with the first of three extra point kicks on a night when every point more than counted.
D'Mari Payne caught three Lynch passes for 26 yards and led Kerens in rushing, gaining 29 yards on 18 carries against a tenacious and aggressive Italy defense.
The Bobcats (5-4 and 3-2 in district play) travel to Cross Roads to conclude the regular season Friday night. Italy (5-5 and 4-2 in district) had already clinched second-place before facing Kerens and opens the playoffs in two weeks as a No. 2 seed.