Bloomingdale had scored 23 unanswered points to take a sizable lead against Wharton in a Nov. 1 game the Wildcats desperately needed to win to seal their playoff fate.
The Wildcats (7-3, 3-2), down by one point late in the fourth quarter after forging a second-half comeback, knew exactly where to put the ball when they needed a season-saving play.
Seven yards from the end zone, quarterback Chase Litton handed the ball to Jeff Keil, who ran up the field for the go-ahead score, 23 seconds left on the clock. Keil then tacked on the two-point conversion to his third touchdown of the night, just for good measure.
“When I got the ball, I was not going to be stopped,” Keil said about his winning touchdown.
Wharton coach David Mitchell has no reason not to trust Keil in moments like that.
Keil helped keep Wharton’s postseason dreams alive earlier in the season when he had 228 total yards and the winning 43-yard touchdown in a 21-20 win against district rival Newsome.
Still, despite the numbers he’s put up on the ground — 806 yards, 10 TDs — Keil’s contributions have been overshadowed by a Wharton passing game that garners all the attention.
“I’m fine with being the underdog and playing under the radar,” said Keil, who finished the regular season with 806 rushing and 484 receiving yards. “If teams don’t respect me, that just fuels my fire more.”
So Keil plans to continue being Wharton’s quiet leader. He’s already been, at times, the Wildcats’ hero, but should they need it Friday in the first playoff game against Orlando’s Dr. Phillips — which has beaten Wharton in its past two playoff appearances — Keil is sure he’s got another game-saving play under his sleeve.
“Third time’s a charm,” he said. “As long as the coaches keep trusting me …we’ll be fine.”