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Exceeding expectationsPhoto Credit: David Smith/Special to PrepsKC



Friday’s game between Rockhurst and Lee’s Summit North was like a heavyweight bout.

Each team delivered — and landed — decisive, game-changing punches, but it was Rockhurst who landed the knockout blow late in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 21-17 with 4:45 left in the game and facing a fourth-and-3 at the Lee’s Summit North 5-yard line, Rockhurst coach Kelly Donohoe called on Aidan Ryan to pick up the first down.

Ryan took the pitch from Ethan Hansen and found a crease, he appeared to be short of the line to gain initially, but he kept churning his legs to pick up the first down.

One play later, Ryan scored from the 1-yard line giving the Hawklets 24-21 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.

“Heart,” Rockhurst coach Kelly Donohoe said of Ryan’s fourth down run that led to the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“It’s a lot of hill sprints actually,” Ryan said.

The game started off with a long, methodical drive by Lee’s Summit North offense.

The Broncos extended the drive two times on fourth down, and picked up several third-and-longs as well. The 20-play, 80-yard drive was capped off by a 5-yard Tanner Howes run up the gut to give North a 7-0 lead.

“What a drive to start a district title game,” Donohoe said. “They took almost the whole quarter. We just felt our football was going to make this a really close game. We told them to get this thing really close in the fourth quarter. Because this group finds a way to get it done when it’s close.

“They’ve done it all year. I know I’ve said this all year, but a coach can’t be more proud of a team than we are right now. If you’re around these guys every week like we are and you see how they work and care for each other, it makes things like this really special.”

Rockhurst answered the Lee’s Summit North touchdown, with an impressive opening drive of its own, as Hansen connected with Ryan and a 13-yard screen to tie the game at 7-7.

Not to be outdone, the Broncos came stampeding back. Facing a third-and-10 deep in their own territory, Elijah Leonard connected with Barrett Lawless for a gain of 52 yards, setting up Howes’ second touchdown of the night, which gave North a 14-7 lead.

Coming into the game, Donohoe knew his team would be up against one of the most talented offenses in the metro.

Donohoe credited defensive coordinator Greg Oder for his exceptional game plan to slow down the Bronco offense.

“If people knew the amount of time he put’s in a game plan is incredible,” Donohoe said. “They’ve just got a slew of really talented kids and we just had to keep them in front of us.”

The Hawklets tied the game late in the second quarter, facing a third-and-10 at the 33-yard line of the Broncos, Hansen connected with Jack Bichelmeyer for the touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.

With the win, Rockhurst will advance to Class 6 quarterfinals for the first time since 2018, where they will host Nixa.

Ryan said this win means a lot not only to him, but for the rest of his team as well.

“It means the countless days in the weight room and countless days (on the practice field) that makes it all worth it,” he said.