Rock tops Jeff City in tough physical contest
By Matt Gerstner PrepsKC staff writer
If Georgia beating Missouri wasn’t evidence enough, Rockhurst provided another example of the perks of “old man football.”
The Hawklets used three field goals and a defensive touchdown to earn a 16-6 win over visiting Jefferson City Friday Night at Dasta Stadium.
“We just wanted to keep the score close and win,” head coach Tony Severino said. “They had a lot of firepower on offense and great speed. We just wanted ball control on offense, and I think our guys did a great job tonight.”
In what could be a preview of a state championship game matchup in Missouri’s revamped playoff system, the Hawklets had a tough task in slowing down a Jays’ offense that averaged over 40 points per game. Not to mention figure out which quarterback would be most effective against an equally formidable defense.
Ahmad Tyler would be the one who got the most snaps for Rockhurst, though there weren’t many that would be effective in the first half. That would be the defense’s time to shine.
The Hawklets would halt Jeff City’s opening drive with an interception by Harrison Lanning, but Rockhurst would go three-and-out on the ensuing possession. Griffin Bins would salvage the drive with a 45 yard field goal, his first of the night.
“He’s one of the best we’ve ever had,” Severino said of Bins. “He kicked the game-winning field goal in the state championship as a sophomore. Kicking is part of the game, and it’s nice to have a consistent guy like him.”
Rockhurst’s defense would do well all by themselves on the next drive. After Jeff City drove to the Hawklet 39, Mitch Koeppen would pick off Jays quarterback Thomas LePage, son of head coach Ted LePage, once again, taking it 70 yards the other way for the touchdown to put Rockhurst up 10-0.
The offense, in the first half at least, was less stellar. Two series from Tyler and one from Trey Vickers would result in minus 25 yards of total offense on nine plays and zero first downs. That opened the door for an eight play, 58-yard drive for Jeff City capped off by a 30 yard touchdown from LePage to ReShawn Williams. The extra point would be blocked, and the score stood at 10-6.
The Rockhurst offense would show its first signs of life at the end of the first half, driving down to the Jefferson City one yard line with runs from Tyler of 28 and 26 yards. But on fourth and goal with four seconds left, a quarterback sneak would be stuffed, and the Hawklets would come up empty-handed.
Tyler would be at the helm for the second half, and he would, as he said it, “do exactly what he needed to do,” namely, not turn the ball over.
The first drive of the second half netted Bins’ second field goal of the night, this time from 38 yards. Jeff City seemed to answer with a drive down to the Rockhurst 20 before turning it over on downs. Connor Kuhlmann would rip off a 45 yard run, and Bins would hit again from 30 yards out. Bins ended the night as the game’s leading scorer.
The fourth quarter would prove uneventful, as the Hawklets’ defense stifled and the offense ran the clock down to secure the victory.
“We just wanted to take the big plays away and put pressure on the quarterback tonight,” Tyler said. “On offense, our job was to protect the ball, and if we had to get it in increments or pick up a third down, we would.”
The win pushed the Hawklets to five straight victories and 6-2 on the season, and Jeff City’s loss would bring their record to the same. Rockhurst now travels to Columbia to face an undefeated Hickman squad handed Jeff City their first loss of the season two weeks ago.
“We have one of the best schedules in Missouri, maybe one of the best in the country, and playing this tough schedule makes us better,” Severino said.
Tyler echoed his coach.
“We’re looking to win no matter who it is we play,” he said. “This tough schedule is great for us. Hickman is good, but we just have to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing.”
As for the playoffs looming and an offense that employs a mostly-discouraged practice with its dual quarterback system, Severino doesn’t plan on changing the offense.
“I check the flow of the game to see who I go to,” he said. “Vickers is more of a pocket passer, and Tyler can make plays with his legs. Tonight they were giving us the edge, so Tyler got most of the snaps. But really it’s whoever has the hot hand.
“I’m not going to do anything different. I’ll ask the quarterbacks and see if they want me to make a decision on one guy, but I have four guys that I’m completely confident in. If a guy is having a bad night, you got to bring in a relief pitcher.”
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