Danes with a 27yd FG with no time left to win it 17-15! @DenmarkHS @DenmarkDanesFB pic.twitter.com/kaVNeYbs5x— Patrick Coffield (@MrCoffield) August 27, 2022
Trailing in the final moments against a top-10 team with a wide receiver-turned-quarterback leading the offense, Denmark didn't panic, and the Danes may have pulled out a season-defining win as a result Friday at home.
After ninth-ranked Cambridge took a late 15-14 lead on a successful 2-point conversion with just over two minutes remaining, Denmark flew down the field to give kicker Hamilton Diboyan a chance for his third field goal of the night. His initial game-winning attempt was blocked, but a penalty on the Bears allowed him to retry.
This time from 27 yards out, Diboyan cleared the Cambridge defenders and split the uprights with no time left on the clock for the thrilling 17-15 victory.
"We just played four quarters, man," Denmark head coach Mike Palmieri said via phone. "The kids made plays down the stretch and found a way to win with our backup QB."
The Danes (1-1) led 3-0 at halftime, riding the performance of its talented defense to overcome a makeshift offense.
"We tackled well tonight," Palmieri said. "We did the things we usually do. We forced them to get rid of the football fast and played our style of defense.
"They have a really good offense. We had to play perfect tonight, and we did."
Denmark's defense didn't even allow Cambridge's first touchdown. That score came from a blocked punt returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter. The key play gave the Bears a 7-6 lead.
Following the special-teams score, Denmark decided to open the offense up a little bit more, and it led to the Danes' first touchdown drive.
Amon Williams found the end zone for 6 points, and Che Ojarikre got over the line for 2 more points.
"We opened it up a little bit more in the second half," Palmieri said of the offense, which was led by senior Kohl Yearwood. "With Kohl starting his first game of the season for us, we took it a little slower early. They took the lead late in the game, and we started opening it up. We put some trust in Kohl, and he got the job done."
Palmieri was impressed with Yearwood's progress from last week, when he got thrust into the QB role after starter Jacob Nelson went down with an injury.
"He's going to be a better football player the more snaps he gets, and we'll be a better football team," Palmieri said of Yearwood. "He's a playmaker. He did a great job tonight. We expect him to get better as the season goes on, as long as he's in there."
Coming off a 35-10 defeat to Roswell in its opener and still missing its lone true quarterback, Denmark needed some positive vibes heading into its first open date. Well, Diboyan's heroics, and the colorful, neon celebration on the field afterwards ensured that would be the case.
"It's big time against a good football team, especially after the way we played last week," Palmieri said. "We felt like we were in the game [against Roswell], and we made some bad mistakes. You can't do that against good teams.
"We played another good team tonight. We didn't make those same mistakes, and we found a way to win."