Heritage High School senior wide receiver Cole Gerardot went into last weekend thinking he was going to miss four to six weeks with a broken wrist. He was down, to say the least.
Last year, a broken collarbone put him on the sidelines during part of Heritage's long tournament run.
“My heart was broken for the kid,” Heritage coach Dean Lehrman said as he recalled Gerardot telling the bad wrist news last Saturday. “He's the heart-and-soul of our defense and our No.1 captain.”
Monday, everything changed.
The part of Gerardot's wrist he thought was fractured no longer hurt. The medical staff at Fort Wayne Orthopedics diagnosed it as a sprain, instead.
Lehrman called the change in diagnosis a miracle.
“When they told me it was just a sprain, it made my whole week,” Gerardot said.
His wrist tightly taped, Gerardot celebrated by catching five passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns in Heritage's 32-26 win over Norwell on Friday night at Heritage.
“He's a difference maker,” Lehrman said.
The Patriots bounced back from a Week 1 loss to New Haven by jumping on Norwell early. Junior quarterback Branson Dossen hit Gerardot with scoring passes of 68 and 46 yards to put the Patriots up 13-0 in the first quarter.
Norwell cut the lead to 13-6 by halftime on a 29-yard run by quarterback Piercen Harnish.
After Heritage forced a turnover on Norwell's first possession of the third quarter, Dossen hit Gerardot again on a five-yard scoring pass to make it 19-6.
Harnish, who finished with 143 yards rushing and two scores, left the game with severe cramping. But sophomore quarterback Carson Gerber came in and helped direct a scoring drive, with Reid Jutte breaking loose for a 58-yard score to cut the Heritage lead to 19-13. Jutte finished with 127 yards rushing.
The Patriots, however, appeared to wrest firm control of the game with a pair of fourth-quarter scores – a 10-yard pass from Dossen to Conner Bleke and a 19-yard Dossen run.
Dossen, a junior in his first season as quarterback, finished with 14-of-26 passing for 254 yards and four scores.
“He's getting better every day,” Lehrman said. “He just needs that experience, but I wouldn't trade him. He's a great kid, great wheels, great arm. He's learning he can do things with his legs that he didn't really believe coming out, too.”
Heritage led 32-13 with less than four minutes left. Norwell coach Jeff Miller said he contemplated putting his junior varsity team in to finish the game, but decided to stick with his regulars. They responded well in a desperate situation.
Harnish, back in at quarterback, directed a scoring drive, running seven yards for the score with 3:13 remaining. Norwell attempted an onside kick, but Heritage recovered. Then Harnish came up with a big hit, forced a fumble and Norwell's Aaron Harris recovered near midfield with 2:11 left.
Harnish directed another scoring drive, hitting junior wide receiver Reggie Hayes on a 20-yard pass to pull Norwell within 32-26 with 1:21 left.
Gerardot then took Norwell's onside kick 47 yards to the Norwell 4. But it wasn't over yet. Norwell forced a fumble and recovered at its own 3-yard line with 29 seconds left. Heritage finally shut the door as the Knights came up short in four offensive plays.
“Norwell's a good football team with a lot of good football players; they never quit,” Lehrman said. “Give them a lot of credit. We were up by 19 points with 3:40 to go and they made a ballgame out of it. I respect everything they do.”
Heritage (1-1) begins Allen County Athletic Conference play next Friday at home against Woodlan (1-1). Norwell (0-2) travels to Northeast Hoosier Conference favorite Carroll (2-0).
Heritage 32, Norwell 26
Norwell 0 6 7 13 --26
Heritage 13 0 6 13 -- 32
H-Cole Gerardot 68 pass from Branson Dossen (Aaron Horne kick)
H—Gerardot 46 pass from Dossen (kick failed)
N—Piercen Harnish 29 run (kick failed)
H—Gerardot 5 pass from Dossen (kick failed)
N—Reid Jutte 58 run (Graham Denney kick)
H—Conner Bleke 11 pass from Dossen (pass failed)
H—Dossen 19 run (Horne kick)
N—Harnish 7 run (Denney kick)
N—Reggie Hayes 20 pass from Harnish (kick failed)
Rushing: N/Harnish 15-143, Jutte 14-127, Will Gerber 5-14, Carson Gerber 4-6, Adam Nahrwold 3-8; H/Justyn Hart 21-100, Dossen 10-15, Gerardot 2-(minus 6), Joel Snider 2-1, Bleke 1-4).
Passing: N/Harnish 8-18-0 78, C. Gerber 1-2-0 17; H/Dossen14-26-0 254.
Receiving: N/Nahrwold 3-36, Hayes 2-34, Jeremy Davis 1-15, W. Gerber 1-10, Jutte 2-0; H/Gerardot 5-124, Jacob Bosler 2-48, Bleke 2-44, Nate Roop 5-38.