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Rock for the AgesPhoto Credit: Dean Backes/PrepsKC


Rockhurst head football coach Kelly Donohoe couldn’t recall a rally the likes of the one high school football fans witnessed at St. Thomas Aquinas Friday night. Some Rockhurst faithful, however, may remember the 1996 contest in which Blue Springs rallied from a 30-6 halftime deficit to upend the Hawklets 36-30.

Friday’s outcome was different, however. Twenty-seven years later Rockhurst earned the right to celebrate after rallying from a 28-0 third quarter deficit to extend the game into overtime and eventually win 45-44 following a blocked extra point kick by Hawklet WR/LB Mitch Forbes.

“I can’t believe what we were able to pull off,” Rockhurst head coach Kelly Donohoe said through all of the chaos. “You feel bad for Coach Dreiling and his staff and their guys because they absolutely controlled much of the game. That team right there that we just played, that’s a state championship type Kansas team.”

Rockhurst started crawling back into contention in the third quarter when Ethan Hansen tossed a 14-yard pass to Jack Bichelmeyer and Aidan Ryan scored from a yard out. Ryan’s two-point conversion run pulled the Hawklets within 28-15 halfway through the third quarter.

Saint quarterback Aiden Skinner then flipped the momentum back to Aquinas when he connected with Elzie Slaughter for a 17-yard touchdown. Max Doerfler then booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Saints up 38-15 three minutes into the fourth quarter.

“We were getting our tails kicked,” Donohoe said following the monstrous rally. “I’m sitting there half worried, thinking this could get real embarrassing. But you know, we talk everyday about fighting, fighting and fighting and character and toughness.”

Later in the quarter, Rockhurst flipped the switch when Hansen found Bichelmeyer open in the back of the endzone with 4:59 left in the game. Following Myles Carson’s two-point conversion catch, Rockhurst trailed just 38-23.

Bichelmeyer then went high on the onside kick and corralled the football to give Rockhurst possession at the Saint 44-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Maeson Tunley reeled in Hansen’s 44-yard scoring strike to pull Donohoe’s band of tough guys within 38-30 with 4:49 left in the contest.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Rockhurst defensive lineman Andrew Sprague recovered a Saint fumble at the Aquinas 48. After picking up a couple of first downs, the Hawklets had the ball at the Saint 15. On first down, Hansen threw the football to Carson in the end zone, drawing a defensive pass interference call.

On first and three from the seven, Ryan ran for six yards to the one. Two plays later, Ryan found the end zone to knot the score at 38-38 with 24 seconds left.

Ryan’s third one-yard scoring run of the game gave Rockhurst its first lead in overtime at 45-38. Skinner responded by hitting Loughman for a 10-yard score on third and goal, but Rockhurst swatted the kick away, sending its sideline into a frenzy.

“I don’t know what to say,” Donohoe said. “You don’t know if you’ll ever experience anything like this. But to come back when the chips are down. I’m just so thankful that they experienced this.

“You can always overcome obstacles, and this is a great lesson for our guys. We’re going to be playing some really good football teams down the road. You just don’t give up and you keep playing and playing.”

Aquinas running back Gianni Rizzi opened the game’s scoring when he found pay dirt from four yards out with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter. The Saints then opened up a 21-0 advantage just before intermission when Skinner connected with Talan Browne and Loughman from 35 and 36 yards out respectively. Both touchdowns came in the final three minutes of the half.

Calin Arndt scored on a 34-yard run early in the third quarter to put the Saints up by four touchdowns.

Arndt led all rushers for the Saints after carrying the football 15 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. Rizzi added 56 yards and a score on the ground on 10 carries. Skinner completed five of 13 aerials for 130 yards and four touchdowns.

Browne led the hosts with a couple of receptions for 67 yards and a score while Loughman scored twice after pulling in two passes for 46 yards.

Hansen completed 22 of 39 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns for Rockhurst. Carson caught eight footballs for 111 yards while Tunley reeled in four passes for 66 yards and a score. Bichelmeyer hauled in four passes for 56 yards and a pair of scores and Ryan led the Hawklet ground game with 12 carries for 29 yards and three touchdowns.

Both teams had two turnovers.

Rockhurst (5-1) takes a three-game winning streak into next weekend’s tussle at Blue Springs (2-4) while the Saints (4-1) will try to rebound from its first loss of the year when they host Bishop Miege (4-1) next weekend.