MOUNDSVILLE - It's not a secret the last few seasons haven't been great ones for John Marshall football.
Why not accelerate the learning curve by winning one on a wing and a prayer?
That's what happened inside of two minutes Friday night against Brooke when Noah Martin provided the wing and Alex Whorton answered the prayer as they hooked up on a 76-yard touchdown pass on their way to a 28-27 victory against the Bruins at Monarch Stadium.
RUNNER — Brooke’s Heath Hildreth carries the ball during Friday’s 28-27 loss to John Marshall.
''Whorton makes a great play,'' JM coach Rick Goodrich said. ''A little luck, obviously. We'll take it. We've been on the other side of that coin.
''I always say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The opportunity was there and our kid made it.''
Thirty-seven seconds earlier, Nick Ossman, who rushed for 158 yards on 14 carries, scored his third touchdown - one play after a pass interference call gave Brooke a first down on fourth-and-4 - to give the Bruins a lead at 28-22.
John Marshall 28, Brooke 27
Brooke 7 7 0 13 - 27
John Marshall 8 7 7 7 - 28
J: Safety, Ossman tackled in end zone, 6:10
J: Martin 6 run (kicked blocked), 4:13
B: Ossman 38 run (Kennedy kick), 2:22
B: Munger 70 INT return (Kennedy kick), 11:14
J: Gump 1 run (Campbell kick), 7:45
J: Gump 2 run (Campbell kick), :45.7
B: Ossman 20 run (Kennedy kick), 10:44
B: Ossman 21 run (pass failed), 2:16
J: Whorton 76 pass from Martin (run failed), 1:39
Rushing: Brooke 33-212-3td (Waker 9-8, Ossman 14-158-3td, Loughrie 7-54, Bowland 2-0, Hildreth 1-(8). John Marshall 53-184-3td (Hardesty 22-51, Martin 10-27-2td, Gump 21-106-2td, Team 2-(-4).
Passing: Brooke 9-15-112-2x (Walker 9-14-112-x, Hildreth 0-1-x). John Marshall 7-11-157-td-x (all by Martin).
Receiving: Brooke 9-112 (Cole 1-9, Hildreth 1-12, Staffalino 3-30, Tate 1-42, Ossman 3-19). John Marshall 6-136 (Skryzneki 2-13, Whorton 2-97-td, Hardesty 2-35, Gump 1-12).
First Downs: Brooke 16; John Marshall 15.
Penalties: Brooke 7-63; John Marshall 6-56.
Fumbles: Brooke 3-0; John Marshall 1-1
No problem for the Monarchs, who won a fourth game for the first time since 2007.
''We didn't keep our heads down,'' Whorton said. ''We knew we had a chance. We just had to execute. We're tough, we're mentally tough. Coach Goodrich taught us to be mentally tough.''
It was Whorton keeping his head up that made the difference.
After a 1-yard run by Chase Gump, who had 106 yards on 21 carries, Martin lofted a high floater near midfield. The Bruins' Aaron Walker was under it and looked to be in position to make a play. But the ball glanced off his hands and trickled into Whorton's, who took it the final 47 yards untouched.
''I saw him throwing it high and I was thinking maybe I could get the tip and it just happened to fall into my hands,'' Whorton said. ''I got a hand on it and was able to pull it in.''
It may well be a turning-point type play for John Marshall football.
''That's not our strong point, coming from behind,'' Goodrich said. ''Our offense isn't geared for that. But the kids made a play. Noah threw the ball well enough, and fortunately for us, their kid didn't make a clean play on it. Whorton's a heads-up player and caught it and had enough speed to get to the end zone.''
Brooke's defensive plan was to apply pressure on Martin. It had no safeties in the formation.
''I had no problem with the call there,'' Bruins coach Sean Blumette said. ''I understand why we did it. I agree with why we did it. I think our line got a good push on that. Aaron had great position on the ball. If he gets any more of his hand on the ball, that's an incomplete pass or an interception. It's a game of inches, one way or another. Unfortunately, we came up on the short end of that.''
Brooke still had a chance, as it set up shop with 1:32 left at its 27. The Bruins picked up a key fourth down on a 16-yard hookup from Walker to Joe Staffilino at the JM 41. They got to the 34 - looking to get to the 20 for a Jacob Kennedy field-goal try - when Tanner Runkle picked off a pass inside the 10 to put a cap on it.
Kennedy, a soccer player by day, is relatively new to the football team, but Blumette said he wouldn't have hesitated to call on him if needed.
John Marshall started the scoring with a safety when Ossman was tackled in the end zone, and went up 8-0 on a 6-yard scamper by Martin. That started the back-and-forth that saw Ossman answer with his first score (38 yards) ahead of a 70-yard interception return by Casey Munger. Gump, a sophomore, scored the next two touchdowns on runs of 1 and 2 yards ahead of scoring runs of 20 and 21 yards by Ossman, setting up JM's last-minute dramatics.
Martin 7 of 10 passes for 157 yards and Whorton wound up with two catches for 97 yards for the Monarchs.
Walker completed 9 of 14 passes for 112 yards.