Rockhurst coach Tony Severino devised a game-plan that was Taylor-made for his Hawklets, who ended the dream of a three-peat state championship run by the Blue Springs Wildcats.
Rockhurst running back A.J. Taylor scored five touchdowns, including the game-winner with just 2:16 left, to lead the Hawklets to a dramatic 34-29 come-from-behind Class 6 District 4 championship victory over visiting Blue Springs Friday night at Dasta Memorial Stadium.
For a brief moment, it appeared a gutsy call by Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe might lead the Wildcats to a victory. Cobi Bissell scored on a 1-yard run with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter to cut Rockhurst’s lead to 28-27.
When Rockhurst jumped offsides on the ensuing extra point attempt, moving the ball to the 1 1/2-yard line, Donohoe called a timeout and sent the offense back on the field.
“We kick the ball and go for the tie without the penalty,” Donohoe said as he walked off the field to have a post-game session with his heartbroken team. “We gave (quarterback) Ian (Brown) the option to pass or throw for the two points, and there was a lot of running room and he scored to give us the (29-28) lead.
“I was thinking – if we make one stop, and can get a first down, we can win this thing,” Donohoe said. “But that didn’t happen. The Taylor kid and (quarterback T.J.) Green are special players.
“We didn’t have an answer for them.”
Rockhurst took the ensuing kickoff and marched 71 yards in 10 plays with Taylor scoring on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 2:16 left.
“We talked about kicking a field goal,” Severino said, “but A.J. was having such a great night, we decided to give him the ball. I don’t even want to think what people would be saying if he didn’t score.”
Taylor just found his way across the goal line.
“I want to see it on tape,” Donohoe said when asked about the final touchdown. “It looked to me like we stopped him short, but they signaled touchdown and there’s nothing you can do about that. The kid had a great game.”
It turned out that Severino was a bit prophetic.
“A.J. has been kind of nursing a groin injury and I told him this week, ‘We’re riding you to a big win Friday night,’ and he really responded,” Severino said after picking up his second victory over the Wildcats this season.
Rockhurst overcame an early 13-0 deficit in Week 6 to edge the Wildcats 14-13, but that triumph paled in comparison to Friday night’s win that saw 8-4 Blue Springs take a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“When we were down 21-7 I told the guys not to panic, that there was a lot of time left to play,” Severino said. “And we did what we had to do to come back and win. I have so much respect for Kelly, his staff and his kids. I know how they feel right now, we’ve been there.
“And I know they were shooting for something special, three state championships in a row, and we had to play the game of the season to get past them – and luckily, we did. This game will go down as a classic between two schools that have played a lot of big games against each other.”
Blue Springs junior Terrance Sanders had another big game for the Wildcats. He scored on a 72-yard interception return and a 6-yard pass from Brown.
The Wildcats led 21-7 on a Bissell 1-yard score and stopped Rockhurst on a third-and-long on its ensuing possession. But a facemask penalty kept the Rockhurst drive alive. Taylor capped it with his second touchdown of the game with 4 minutes left in the half to make it 21-14. Taylor then scored all three Rockhurst touchdowns in the second half.
Taylor finished the game with 14 carries for 58 yards and four scores and one reception for a touchdown. Green was 14 of 26 for 201 yards with a score and the interception to Sanders.
Bissell was a workhorse for the Wildcats, carrying the ball 21 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Brown was just 6 of 13 for 41 yards passing.