Instead, trailing 18-13 with 3 yards to go on fourth down and 10.1 seconds on the clock, the coach opted for a pass play to Sam Benjamin. Casey's pass didn't reach Benjamin on the goal line, because Friendship defensive back Reginal Wyatt made a diving deflection to preserve the Knights' victory in the I-95 Kickoff Classic at Bowie State University.
"I thought about calling a draw play, but I changed my mind," the second-year coach said. "That was probably the dumbest thing I've done since I've been a coach, but they deserved to win. They played their hearts out. It wasn't a win, but it was a step in the right direction."
In their season opener, the Gaels trailed by 18 points with 10 minutes left in the game. They took advantage of three Friendship turnovers to cut the Knights' lead to 18-13 with 5:42 to go on junior running back Drexel Mosby's second 3-yard touchdown run within four minutes.
Mosby's first touchdown came eight plays after Jacob Forrest-Jones' second interception of the night. His second pick followed Hunter Eubanks' fumble recovery on the Knights' 35 yard-line on Friendship's next play from scrimmage.
On the Knights' next possession, Thomas Demetriou sacked quarterback Brian White and a short Knights' punt set the Gaels up on Friendship's 41-yard line.
Early in the drive, Casey hit Marcus Alston for a 23-yard pass play and the junior quarterback moved his team steadily to the 3-yard line with 15 seconds to go.
Casey's first pass, intended for Nick Fairley in the end zone, was a bit high, and although his next pass, on fourth down, was low, the ball headed right for Benjamin's hands before Wyatt got in the way.
While Friendship, a public charter school team from Washington, had three turnovers, the Gaels never turned the ball over. Their offense struggled through much of the first half with the athleticism of Friendship's defensive line.
At halftime, Henry moved the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Eubanks to split guard to give the Gaels more push on that side with the Knights' stellar 6-4, 300-pound defensive lineman Eddie Goldman on the strong side. Henry also attributed some of the early game troubles to everyone getting their timing down in the first game of the season. The Gaels' game last weekend against Bishop McNamara was rained out by Hurricane Irene.
"Dexter Mosby, our best running back, kept being patient on runs," Henry said. "We run a lot of inside and outside zones, so that takes a lot of timing. It's kind of the same way a quarterback has to work timing with the receivers. The line has to work timing on those kinds of plays."
The Knights, 2-0 and ranked No. 10 by The Washington Post, were coming off a nationally televised victory over Taft, 12-6, in Ohio last weekend. They faded in the second half of that game, too.
"It's a game of momentum," Knights coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. "We gave [the Gaels] their life. We should have been closing it. We're playing bad football. We're finding a way to win — barely."
Early on, the running game of Albert Reid, who has committed to West Virginia, and strong passing from White gave the Knights an edge.
Reid scored the first of his two touchdowns with 2:01 left in the first quarter on a 2-yard run set up two plays earlier by a 37-yard pass from White to Amonta Poteat. White then hit Poteat with a 30-yard pass for a 12-0 lead with 7:29 left in the first half. Reid added a 20-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining in the half.
MSJ 0 0 7 6 -- 13
FCA 6 12 0 0 -- 18
FCA—Reid 2 run, pass failed
FCA—Poteat 30 pass from White, run failed
FCA—Reid 20 run, run failed
MSJ—Mosby 3 run, Grasso kick
MSJ—Mosby 3 run, run failed