In the end, it wasn't Jim Hoggan's 176 passing yards, or Matt Wright's two long kickoff returns, or even the staunch Olympus defense that sealed the Titans' 30-21 victory over second-ranked Highland Friday afternoon - it was the catch.
The catch was a leaping grab by Oly tight end Mike Hatch at the Highland 12 yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter, a grab which later set up a one-yard TD plunge by Nick Gamangasso. Hatch's catch was not only timely, it was a human highlight film. And it capped a battle between two teams that will surely find themselves in the thick of the 4A title race this year.Olympus and Highland, both now 4-1 for the year, began this game as if defenses would dominate, with the first three series resulting in punts. The Titans turned the tide on their second possession, marching 85 yards in 13 plays behind the leadership of quarterback Hoggan. He completed four passes in the drive, the final one a six-yard TD strike to Jason Straw. Hoggan had previously found Wright open three times for 51 yards on the drive. Chris Anderton's PAT gave the Titans a 7-0 lead with three seconds left in the first quarter.
Highland wasted no time tying the score. The Rams moved 68 yards in four plays, led by a 43-yard gallop from Butch Fihaki, who would pick up 121 yards on nine carries and also score on a clever nine-yard halfback shuffle pass (really). Highland QB Joe Sheffield scored on an 11-yard scamper, and Mark Dahl tied the game at 7-all.
The Titans countered that with an 81-yard, 12-yard drive, aided by a pass interference call on Highland. On second down from the Rams' 34, Hoggan rolled right and threw back across the field to Chris Hansen for the score. The PAT was ruled wide, leaving Oly up 13-7.
Highland drove deep again, but fumbled the ball away at the Olympus 27, and the score remained 13-7 at intermission.
Olympus set the second half tone on the opening kickoff, as Wright faked a reverse and raced 55 yards to the Highland 38. Six plays later, Hoggan bootlegged around the right and scored from the 13. Anderton made it 20-7 with 9:41 in the third. The Rams returned the favor with their own 80-yard drive, Fihaki scoring when halfback Allen Backels underhanded a nine-yard pass. Dahl cut the lead to 20-14 with 4:07 left in the quarter.
The Titans responded again, this time moving to the Highland 14 from where Anderton booted a 31-yard field goal. That drive included a gutsy fourth-and-one attempt by Oly at its own 36 which paid off when Gamangasso dove for the first down.
Highland pulled to within two at 23-21 following an 82-yard drive. Mark Christensen was the workhorse in this series, gaining 67 yards in five carries. He scored from the 12 with 9:13 left.
Olympus needed a big drive, and it got one following Wright's 36 yard kickoff return. On second and 12 from the Highland 40, Hoggan rolled out left, spotted Hatch flairing out, and threw a high pass which Hatch picked off cleanly just in front of the Highland defender. When the Rams drove for the score, Highland was forced to pass in two desperation drives that ended with Olympus getting the ball on downs. Hoggan completed 9 of 18 passes for 176 yards on the afternoon.