WHEELING - Bishop Donahue and senior quarterback Jesse Padlow didn't flinch.
Not after Wheeling Central took an 18-0 first-quarter lead, nor when the Maroon Knights retook the lead 26-19 midway through the third quarter.
Not after the Bishops turned the ball over on downs deep in Central territory in the fourth and not when they had to withstand a 2-point conversion that would have given the Maroon Knights a one-point lead.
Wheeling Central quarterback Issac Rine (8) is surrounded by Bishop Donahue’s Chris Vani (60), Chase Padlow (66), and Lavonte Hampton on Saturday night.
Never flinched once.
Padlow completed 19 of 29 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 2-yard strike to Chaice Treux with 6:02 remaining as the Bishops kept their increasing playoff hopes alive with a 33-32 victory against Wheeling Central on Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"This team has more heart than any team I've ever been around," Padlow said. "We never quit. We're going to battle and battle and never give up. I really wouldn't want to play us right now because we are playing so well."
It was a 2-yard pass to Treux, on third-and-goal, that gave the Bishops the lead back.
That came after a Wheeling Central fumble on the first play after it had stopped the Bishops at the Central 15.
"I knew their outside linebacker was going to blitz," Padlow said. "They'd basically been bringing basically their whole backside when we were in that formation. (Truex) is a big kid. That left him 1-on-1 with a smaller guy. I'm going to go to that every time."
The victory helped the Bishops remain in control of their own playoff destiny, with a Thursday night game with Tyler Consolidated in Moundsville on the horizon.
Bishop Donahue (6-3) earned its first victory against Central in four meetings.
"It's just a huge win for us," coach John Durdines said. "We've never beaten them before. Any time you can come over here and beat a quality program like Central, it's huge."
Central, a team that has pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat time and time again this season, was poised to do it again, though.
Freshman quarterback Isaac Rine found classmate John Burkhalter on a 30-yard touchdown strike with 1:48 remaining, with Burkhalter fighting his way into the end zone for the final 4 yards, just diving into the end zone with a Bishop player on his leg. After a timeout, the old riverboat gambler Mike Young sent out his offense. Rine, who was excellent all evening, throwing for 121 yards and running for 108, rolled to his left and found Burkhalter in the end zone but the pass was broken up.
"That was my call," Young said. "We were going to go for 2. This time it didn't work out. We got in that situation, but you can also look back at the earlier conversions we didn't get. You have to give them credit. They have a great team and they battled back."
Padlow had connected with Jared Yates on a 39-yard touchdown late in the third to tie the game at 26-26.
Central had stormed out of the gate, going up 18-0 on the strength of three C.J. Burch touchdowns. Rine had big plays on those first-quarter drives, including a 47-yard run on the first possession, a 40-yard completion to Burkhalter on the second and a 28-yard strike to Joey John on the third.
"We're proud of our young kids," Young said. "They came out and battled. But I have to say something about our older kids. You've got C.J. playing with a big cast on his hand. (Jimmy) Tankovits is coming back and playing through a shoulder injury. (Bubba) Slyder, (Coty) Knecht and our seniors, they played their hearts out. We didn't quit."
Bishop didn't flinch.
"They hit us with some stuff early and we had to make an adjustment," Durdines said. "I told our kids after we got down three scores that it's not over. We knew we could fight back, that it was still early."
Indeed it was.
The Bishops showed steely resolve, fighting back to get on the board on a Matt Vucelik 1-yard run to complete a 65-yard drive in which Padlow threw completions to four different receivers.
"I have a lot of faith in all those guys," said Padlow, who found eight different receivers in the game. "We've had four or five games like that. And I have to give it to the line. Those guys block 100 percent all of the time."
Lavonte Hampton, one of the area's most dangerous weapons, got he Bishops even closer when he returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown. Then he scored on a 1-yard run from the Wildcat formation with 11.7 remaining in the half, giving the Bishops a 19-18 lead.
Burch's fourth touchdown, a 47-yard run, gave Central the lead back before Padlow and the Bishops fought back.
Burch finished with 129 yards on 22 carries.