When Rockhurst misfired a second-and-20 pass late in the fourth quarter, Lee’s Summit West coach Vinny Careswell knew the Titans would get one more shot at winning the game.
Then came the yellow flag.
A personal foul whistled against West kept Rockhurst’s drive alive.
And the Titans never did get the ball back as the Hawklets ran out the clock to seal a 20-17 victory in Class 6, District 4 semifinal action Friday, Oct, 27, at West.
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Nursing a three-point lead, Rockhurst (8-3) took possession with 6 minutes, 9 seconds remaining and never relinquished the ball.
A holding penalty sent the Hawklets back to their own 45-yard line before quarterback Derek Green missed that pass over the middle to tight end Jacob Sykes.
But a West player appeared to throw a Rockhurst player to the ground after the play, which led to the penalty.
It was one of three critical first downs the Hawklets picked up during the final minutes, not that it made the loss any easier to swallow for Careswell.
“I completely disagree with the call on the personal foul,” Careswell said. “If anything, it should have been no-call. It was basically him protecting himself from getting crushed on the ground. They said he threw him, but I disagree.”
The call became more crucial when Rockhurst later faced third-and-8 from the West 33-yard line.
The Titans (8-3) pressured Green as a he scrambled in the back field, but he had enough time to find running back Brady McCanles, whose catch and run netted a first down at the 20.
“There were stages in that fourth quarter where we had them stopped,” Careswell said. “And I’m going to go back to that penalty again, which I think was the game-changer.”
Rockhurst coach Tony Severino changed the game when he told Green to keep the ball on the ground in the second half.
Green obeyed, attemptin only one pass before the two fateful throws on the final drive.
“We came out in the second half and I told the kids at halftime, we are not going to throw the football unless we just literally have to, and we’re going to shove it down their throats,” Severino said.
Severino wanted the Hawklets to possess the ball and keep it out of the hands of West running back Phillip Brooks and wide receiver/defensive back Mario Goodrich.
“We had to keep it out of (Goodrich’s) and (Brooks’) hands,” Severino said. “They’re so explosive, they can beat you at any time.”
Brooks, a senior, finished with 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, during his final game as a Titan. Goodrich, a senior Nebraska commit, made three catches for 60 yards and might have had more if not for the frigid conditions.
Rockhurst drew first blood with an 11-yard touchdown toss from Green to Jack Eckels, but West quickly answered with Brooks’ 12-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Ben Kobel.
Both defenses settled in after the opening possessions and the game remained 7-7 at halftime.
Mykal Wiley broke the tie with a 26-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
McCanles, who finished with 117 yards rushing, put Rockhurst ahead 13-10 with a 4-yard run later in the third period, but the Titans retook the lead on Brooks’ 1-yard TD plunge early in the fourth quarter.
Rockhurst went up 20-17 on a 1-yard sneak by Green capping Rockhurst’s next possession.
The Hawklets then forced a Titans’ three-and-out to get the ball again.
“Credit to Rockhurst; they ran the ball well,” Careswell said. “And when they needed big pass plays, they made big pass plays.”