CRESTVIEW HILLS, KY. -- Alex Lachman hit a 43-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to lift visiting Johns Hopkins over Thomas More, 31-29, in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs Saturday.
"I could tell by the sound it was good," Hopkins freshman long snapper Reid Vanderlinden said. "I looked up as it went past the line and knew it was going through."
The win marks Hopkins' second upset of a previously undefeated team. The Blue Jays (10-2) handed Hampden Sydney (10-1) a 23-7 loss in the opening round Nov. 21 and moved beyond the first round for the first time in school history.
Hopkins advances to the quarterfinals Saturday to face Wesley, a 43-9 winner over Mississippi College.
Lachman's game-winner capped a nine-play, 44-yard drive. The Blue Jays moved from their own 30-yard line to the Thomas More 26 in 50 seconds, which left one second on the clock for Lachman to attempt the field goal. The Blue Jays converted a third down and a fourth-and-10 on the drive and gained 5 valuable yards on a crucial offside penalty against the Saints (11-1) with the ball sitting on the Thomas More 40 with five seconds remaining.
Hewitt Tomlin completed a 9-yard pass to Tucker Michels with one second remaining to bring on the field-goal team. With Lachman having kicked 15 field goals on the season entering the game, coach Jim Margraff and the Blue Jays had complete confidence in putting the game on Lachman's foot.
"The last thing we did at practice on Thanksgiving morning was run the field-goal team out to practice just that situation," Margraff said in a post-game news conference. "He hit it well, and it looked like it would have been good from 50."
Said Lachman: "I'm happy I made it for the team. I was hoping when we got the ball after their touchdown I would get a chance. As soon as they went offsides and we hit the out I knew I could make it. We practice that situation all the time."
Hopkins matched the school record with its 10th win of the season. The Blue Jays took a 21-3 halftime lead by capitalizing on turnovers late in the second quarter.
They managed to surprise the Saints on their third play from scrimmage as quarterback Tyler Porco executed a play-action fake and found Dan Crowley in stride two steps behind the defense for a 63-yard touchdown pass. The play was the longest of both Porco's and Crowley's careers.
The Saints capitalized on one of three first-half turnovers by the Blue Jays. The Saints' Zach Autenrieb intercepted Tomlin and returned the ball inside the Blue Jays' 15-yard line. A face-mask penalty against Hopkins put the ball inside the Jay's 10, but the defense held and the Saints were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Dustin Zink with 5:42 remaining in the first half.
Hopkins, which has forced two or more turnovers in 13 straight games dating to last season, recorded back-to-back takeaways in the final eight minutes of the second quarter.
A bad handoff from Thomas More quarterback Trevor Stellman was inadvertently kicked nearly 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage by Hopkins' Steve Levinson and recovered by Colin Wixted at the 2-yard line. Tomlin rolled right on first down and found junior tight end Brian Hopkins in the middle of the end zone to make it 14-3 with 6:54 remaining in the first half.
One play after Stellman was knocked out of the game, Rob Kues was intercepted at the Hopkins 6-yard line by Devin Hewlett to end the threat.
The Blue Jays' Andrew Kase needed just two carries to move the ball from the Blue Jays' 19-yard line to the Thomas More 45. Four completions from Tomlin - to Michels, Sam Wernick (two) and Kase - moved the ball to the 1. Kase went over for his 50th career touchdown to make it 21-3.
The Saints made a run in the third quarter as Nick Olthaus caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stellman just less than six minutes into the period and Cordario Collier grabbed a 15-yard scoring pass less than three minutes later to slice the deficit to 21-17.
"Thomas More is a great team and showed great resolve with their effort in the third and fourth quarters," Margraff said.
After Hopkins dominated the first half, the Saints outscored them 26-10 in the second.
The Blue Jays gained 146 rushing yards, including 107 by Kase, against the nation's second-stingiest rushing defense, which entered the game allowing just 51 yards per game on the ground. Despite turning the ball over four times and holding it for just 26 minutes, the Blue Jays still held a 414-327 advantage in total offense. It was the school-record fifth straight game Hopkins has totaled 400 or more yards.