The first touchdown of DeAmonte Overman’s high school football career was perfect timing for the St. Albert High Skyhawks.
The exhilarating 50-yard catch and run with only 29 seconds remaining against the Leduc Tigers lifted the Skyhawks to another trademark come-from-behind victory in the Miles conference division two playoffs Monday at Johnny Bright Park.
“It was a really exciting moment, especially for it being my first touchdown. It also happened to be one of the biggest plays in the season,” said Overman, a Grade 11 wideout in his second year with Skyhawks. “It meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to the team because it let them know that they can trust me when the ball is in the air.”
The Skyhawks rose to the challenge down by four in the last minute of play as Grade 12 quarterback Sam Cuciz aired the ball out to the opportunistic Overman positioned near the sideline.
“I wasn’t really expecting the ball, honestly. It was just a flash before my eyes,” Overman said. “When I looked up and saw the ball in the air I realized it was underthrown so I had to do everything I could to catch it and everything I could to help the team out and I ended up coming down with the ball. The safety came over and he literally ran right in front of me so I just had a clear way into the endzone.
“It was just a blessing moment and I can’t believe it even happened. It’s amazing.”
The Skyhawks went for the two-point conversion and Cuciz threaded the needle to Grade 12 slotback Connor Lotoski deep in the endzone to make it a done deal at 14-10.
“It was definitely exciting to come back in the fourth (quarter) like that,” Lotoski said. “Basically every game in the playoffs last year we came back in the fourth and it was great to get the victory like that again this time.”
The sixth-place Skyhawks turned the tables on the third-place Tigers (4-3) after going down to defeat to Leduc 27-21 in league play.
“We didn’t have a perfect game (in the win) but we had a decent game. We’ve definitely got to fix up some of our offensive stuff and definitely work on our D,” Lotoski said. “Both teams really battled throughout that game and it was just that one pass (to Overman) at the end that was the difference.”
The win lifted the Skyhawks (3-4) into Friday’s semifinal against the Strathcona Lords (4-2) but the score was unavailable at press time.
The winner will challenge the Ardrossan Bisons (4-1-1) or McNally Tigers (4-3) for the Miles championship this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Johnny Bright.
Last year the Skyhawks lost the final to McNally 25-8 after pulling off late-game surges to defeat the St. Francis Xavier Rams in the semifinals and Strathcona in the opening playoff round.
The only Tier III (school population 450 to 749) team in the Miles went on knockoff the host Peace River Pioneers with another last-minute game-winning TD in the north semifinal before falling in the north final 28-0 to the Holy Rosary Raiders of Lloydminster to finish 6-5 overall.
“Last year was unbelievable what we were able to do and this season we want do better instead of taking second place. We’re looking to take first,” Overman said. “A lot of people have doubt in us but we don’t. When we walk around the school everyone is like, ‘Oh, you guys probably won’t win,’ but we just use that as fuel. It’s motivation to make us better and I think in this playoff run we can make it all the way and hopefully win the championship.”
Win or lose in the playoffs, the Skyhawks have a date with the Peace Wapiti Academy Titans of Grande Prairie in the north semifinals Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. at Johnny Bright.
In the Football Alberta Tier III rankings, the Mighty Peace league Titans (5-3) are listed sixth and Skyhawks are seventh.
“We want to do as good as we can during playoffs but we’ve always got that (Tier III) game in the back of our heads and we’ve got to be prepared for that,” Lotoski said of the provincial playdowns. “Definitely, there’s a lot more pressure on you and you’ve just got to make sure you do the best that you can.”
The Skyhawks had high hopes of reversing their 18-0 loss to Strathcona in the last game before the playoffs.
“They’re a really aggressive team. They’re skilled and talented and we’re looking to make adjustments to make sure we come out with the win on Friday,” said Overman, 16.
Football became Overman’s second sport after the newcomer from Wichita, Kansas was recruited in the hallways at St. Albert Catholic High School.
“The coach (Sam Johnson) pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, I heard you’re a basketball player but do you want to play football?’” said Overman, who is generously listed at five-foot-eight when his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hair stands on end.
Lotoski, 17, is another Skyhawk who stands out in the crowd. The sure-handed receiver, who also alternates between linebacker and defensive end after toiling at tackle “as a big kid on the line” last year, is built like a bouncer at six-foot-five and 215 pounds.
The third-year Skyhawk sees similarities between last year’s team and the current edition.
“This year we have a very strong defence for Tier III and last year it was a very strong defence too,” Lotoski said. “Our passing game is also very strong this year with our receivers. Last year we had guys like (Bryan) Breda and (Anthony) Borrelli and I feel we’ve got some of those guys this year who can make those big catches at the end of the game that we need.”