WHEELING - Morgantown coach John Bowers said it best when discussing Chaz Thomas' performance against Wheeling Park on Friday night.
''He'll sleep well,'' Bowers said.
No doubt the junior needed it.
Wheeling Park’s Bryce Ingram stiff-arms Morgantown’s Jesse Tabron (83) as he awaits a block from teammate Tanner Yoho (61) on Friday night.
Thomas blistered the Wheeling Island Stadium turf for 303 yards and four touchdowns as the Mohigans outlasted the Patriots, 42-39, in a thriller between West Virginia Class AAA powers that came down to the next-to-last play.
And, it came as no surprise that Thomas was in on it.
Faced with a fourth-and 2 at its own 41 with 13.4 ticks remaining, Park quarterback Zach Phillips dropped back and lofted a bomb downfield toward Eric Banks. The pass was tipped and picked off by Thomas with 3 seconds left to end any hopes of the Patriots tying, or winning, the game.
It was a thrilling ending to a contest that kept fans on their feet throughout. The teams combined for almost 800 yards in a battle that, at many times, resembled a West Virginia University game.
But when the clock struck :00, it was the team from the home of the Mountaineers that emerged victorious ... barely.
''I was afraid because they had the ball last,'' Bowers, the former Brooke Bruin, said. ''They would answer. Then we would answer ... it was just two good football teams playing great.
''Neither defense played very well, but give Wheeling Park credit and give our guys credit. Both teams played hard.
Park coach Chris Daugherty agreed.
''I'm really proud of my kids and I'm really proud of my football team,'' Daugherty said. ''They kept battling until the last play. They never took a play off ... never took a down off.
''We might have gained a little bit even though we lost.''
The game wasn't decided on a turnover or a miscue. Simply put, it came down to which time got the final stop.
''I thought our mental mistakes were low,'' Daugherty said. ''They just kept battling and that's all you can ask of the kids.''
Alex Weidman's 6-yard run, combined with one of Megan DeBastini's six PATs, gave the Mohigans (5-1) a 35-24 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Patriots answered with a nine-play drive that culminated with Geremy Paige's 1-yard burst. Bryce Ingram barely made it across the goal line for the 2-point conversion to make the score 35-32.
At this point, Thomas already had 232 yards. But he came through when his team needed him the most on the Mohigans' ensuing drive.
Starting at its own 14 with 8:56 remaining, Thomas exploded for 21 yards. Seven plays later, Thomas' 22-yard scoring run helped put Morgantown up 42-32 with 4:38 left.
With the exception of a Weidman carry, Thomas and Jalan Thomas alternated runs on the drive.
''It's easy to call plays like that when your offensive line plays as well as ours does,'' Bowers said. ''When the offensive line plays that well you have a chance to put up some points and we did that (Friday) thank goodness.''
The Patriots (4-3) weren't done.
Phillips, who finished with 189 yards passing, hit Quashad Pugh for 15 yards on first down. Then, two plays later, Phillips found Pugh again for 13 more.
That helped set up Phillips' 6-yard scamper that helped make the score 42-39 with 3:20 to play.
Park then executed an onside kick, which the Mohigans recovered their own 44. On third-and-4 from the 50 with 2:51 remaining, Mark Johnson's pass fell incomplete. But a pass interference call was made against Park giving Morgantown new life at the Patriots' 36.
Park's defense held again giving its offense one last shot with 45.8 seconds left. But Thomas' play ended it.
''He's the whole package,'' Daugherty said of Thomas, who had three runs of more than 50 yards. ''He can run tough then he can bounce out and go 70 on you. I think he's probably the best back we've seen to date.''
Park will look to bounce back next week at Elkins (6-1), while the Mohigans welcome Steubenville (6-1).
''We're a pretty good football team and (Friday) we showed it,'' Daugherty said. ''We came up on the short end, but that's one of the best programs in the state and we played toe-to-toe with them.''