Three days before what he anticipates will be the last football game of his life, Rockhurst senior linebacker Luke Ritter recapped the Hawklets’ journey to the Missouri Class 6 state championship game. After an in-depth analysis, he settled on a rather simplistic — yet fitting — description.
“It’s been a pretty dramatic way to go out,” he said.
Rockhurst needed A.J. Taylor’s fourth-quarter touchdown — on a fourth-down play, no less — to beat two-time defending champion Blue Springs. The Hawklets used a defensive stop late in the fourth quarter to knock out Francis Howell a week later.
The emotional high of the two victories had Ritter and a handful of his teammates itching to return to the football field for their state championship matchup with Christian Brothers College.
“I could’ve played the next day,” senior quarterback T.J. Green said.
A postseason schedule adjustment forced them to wait. And wait. And wait.
For the first time, a bye week preceded the Missouri Class 6 state-championship game this season. And that’s given the Hawklets a 15-day break before Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. matchup with CBC. Which has resulted in an anxiety-filled two weeks.
“When you’re in such a good rhythm, like we were, you just want to get back out there on the field as soon as possible and play the state championship,” Ritter said. “We’ve been really anxious. It’s been pretty hard having the extra week off.”
In fact, the Hawklets, 12-1, were so ready for more football that a large portion of the team’s seniors spent last Friday attending Shawnee Mission East’s double-overtime victory against Olathe North in the Kansas Class 6A semifinals.
Green said he hoped attending the game would cure his craving to get back on the field. Instead, it supplied the opposite effect.
“I wanted to be out there playing,” Green said. “That was an unbelievable game, so it was pretty fun to watch. But I’d always rather be playing.”
In his 32nd year with Rockhurst, coach Tony Severino called it a unique situation to endure a bye week in the playoffs.
The Hawklets used the first week mostly to rest minor injuries and conduct low-key practices, he said. It wasn’t the ideal preparation for a coach who has won seven Missouri state championships with Rockhurst.
“I wanted to keep playing. I think you have to keep the flow going,” Severino said. “We’ll see how it’s going to affect us. We stayed pretty light last week, and then we built it back up this week. That’s been the hard part — the mental part of the preparation — because it’s been back-and-forth.”
The break benefited Severino more on a personal level than it did a professional one. He welcomed his ninth grandchild to the family last Friday.
It also allowed him more time to prepare for a dynamic CBC offense that has reached 40 points in every game this season. That offense is built on one major attribute — speed.
Adding to the intrigue: Rockhurst's defense is noted for its quickness, as well.
And that speed, of course, will be well-rested.
“I think the biggest (key) is not to give them the big play,” Severino said. “Our offense is going to have to become our best defense. We’re going to have to control the game offensively, with our kicking game and special teams. They can score in a hurry.
“If it takes you awhile to catch up to their speed, it could be 21-0 before you blink.”