Tony Severino has seen more than 1,700 quarters of football in his 37 seasons on the Rockhurst sideline. Few were like the fourth quarter of Friday’s 17-14 comeback victory over Lee’s Summit in the first round of the Missouri Class 6A playoffs.
So his final direction to the Hawklets might have been in jest. But then again …
“Hold onto the ball and take a knee!” Severino hollered. “You’re going to kill me!”
The Hawklets (7-3) will head on the road next week to face an undefeated Liberty North team. If Friday night turns out to be Severino’s final home victory, or the last of his storied career, it’s one he won’t soon forget.
“It is nice to walk off here one last time with a win,” Severino said as he strolled off the field that now bears his name. “But I’m hoping it’s not our last game.”
The Rockhurst rally started and ended with interceptions.
The Hawklets trailed 14-0 before Steven Burdge stepped in front of a Lee’s Summit pass on the first play of the fourth quarter and returned it 32 yards for a score.
It was the jolt of adrenaline that a sleepwalking Rockhurst team needed to finally wake up.
“The interception turned the game around. We were hunting and pecking on offense, trying to find things, and our defense was playing solid after (the first quarter),” Severino said. “We were just trying to figure out a way, and it just happened. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.”
The Rockhurst offense then responded with its first touchdown drive of the game. Quarterback Bobby Hummel found Chuck Ingram for a 28-yard touchdown pass, and the same duo hooked up for a two-point conversion to tie the game 14-14 with 8:11 to go.
That’s when things got really interesting.
Rockhurst got the ball after another defensive stop and was comfortably within field-goal range, but a third-down sack pushed the ball back from the 30-yard line.
Senior kicker Owen Lawson told Severino he could make the 47-yard field goal, then stepped up and proved it. The kick gave Rockhurst a 17-14 lead with 3:04 to play.
“I was just trying to be confident. I patted (Severino) on the chest and told him I could do it,” Lawson said. “When I saw it, I was good, and I hugged my holder. It was cool.”
Unfortunately for Lawson, his night wasn’t over. The Hawklets tried to punt the ball back with less than a minute to play, but the snap sailed over Lawson’s head. By the time he tracked it down, his punt was blocked and the Tigers (5-5) were given new life.
Lee’s Summit quarterback Darrias Pearson went to work, but had to leave the field on the second play of the drive with an apparent leg injury. The Tigers were out of timeouts, so junior Tommy Lock had to take over under center.
Rockhurst senior Acien Ajing intercepted the ensuing pass, allowing Severino to finally breathe easy and extend his final season at least one more week.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all …
“You just go ‘Really?’ I’m getting too old for this,” Severino said with a laugh. “My heart … I told the doctors to get a defibrillator on the sideline.”
The Hawklets wouldn’t mind making Severino stress out a few more times before he hangs up his headset.
“We’re not going out without a fight,” Lawson vowed.
Friday night’s comeback was proof of that.