Slammed to the turf in the second quarter and pulled for a few plays as a precaution, Park Center quarterback Lawrence Ogunti later laughed off the hit as a wake-up call.
Showing no ill effects of hitting the back of his helmet on the turf, Ogunti engineered a fourth-quarter comeback victory. The Pirates survived a late Richfield rally for a 27-21 victory Friday on the road at Spartan Stadium.
Teammate Adam Buirge hoped the game offered a message of resiliency to future opponents. The Pirates have endured 15 consecutive losing seasons. But even when a 19-6 lead became a 21-19 deficit, Park Center did not falter.
“The old Park Center would have folded,” said Buirge, a Northern Illinois commit who caught two of Ogunti’s four TD passes and recovered a fumble. “But we’re a new team and in the end we figured out a way to pull it out.”
Buirge broke free for a 70-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half for a 19-6 lead. Richfield responded, rallying for two TDs scored just 1:38 apart in the fourth quarter.
Daniel Van’Eyll, who recovered a punt for a 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter, gathered in his second muffed punt return by Park Center. John Krohn finished the short drive by muscling in from 1 yard and cutting the Pirates’ lead to 19-13.
Park Center fumbled on its ensuing drive and Richfield scored again, this time on Christian Frost’s 11-yard scamper. Krohn’s two-point conversion run gave Richfield a 21-19 lead.
It was short-lived. Park Center used Ogunti’s fourth TD pass of the evening — this one to Amani Hooker — to regain a 27-21 lead. A Richfield fumble sealed the outcome.
“We decided we didn’t want to be the same Park Center,” Buirge said. “You’re going to see a lot of this.”