Rockhurst has enjoyed some thrilling high school football games across the decades, but Friday night’s comeback may be one for its heralded record books.
The Hawklets, ranked No. 4 in the 810 Varsity Top 25, overcame a 38-15 deficit with under five minutes to play for a 45-44 victory in overtime at No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas.
“The fortitude, the never-say-die mantra of this group — I couldn’t be more happy for them,” Rockhurst coach Kelly Donohoe said. “This was a heck of a comeback tonight that they’ll never forget.
“This is a special group of seniors, and this was a special win tonight.”
Aquinas built a 28-0 lead to start the second half, but Rockhurst fought back with two touchdowns, including Aidan Ryan’s two-yard plunge with 6:33 remaining. That cut Aquinas’ lead to 13 points, 28-15.
The Saints made it 35-15 with 3:04 left in the third quarter on a 17-yard TD pass from Aiden Skinner to Elzie Slaughter. The score was 38-15 after an Aquinas field goal with 8:54 remaining in the game.
Then the unthinkable began to unfold as Rockhurst started at its own 26 with 8:46 to play. Aided by two 15-yard penalties, the Hawklets faced a fourth-and-goal at the 10; Ethan Hansen lobbed a touchdown pass to Jack Bichelmeyer in the back of the end zone, and a two-point conversion made it 38-23 with 4:59 left.
Rockhurst recovered the ensuing onside kick. The ball popped up and was corralled by Bichelmeyer at the Aquinas 44. On the next play, Hansen hit a wide-open Maeson Tunley on the left sideline, making it 38-30 with 4:49 remaining.
The teams traded possessions until Aquinas took over at its own 40 with 2:10 left. On second down, the Saints promptly coughed up the ball at the 48, and three plays later Hansen hit Bichelmeyer for 15 yards, advancing the Hawklets to the Aquinas 15.
A pass interference set up a another Ryan TD run with 24 seconds to go, and Hansen threw a two-point conversion pass to make it 38-38.
Rockhurst went all running plays on its OT possession, a steady march capped by yet another Ryan TD run.
Aquinas answered with Skinner tossing a TD pass to Joe Loughman. But the Saints botched the extra-point attempt and the Rockhurst sideline erupted, helmets flying into the night sky as the Hawklets celebrated their improbable triumph.
Hansen finished with 246 passing yards and three TDs while Myles Carson had a game-high 111 receiving yards. Skinner threw for four Aquinas scores and teammate Calin Arndt rushed for 128 yards and a TD.
Rockhurst (5-1) will face Blue Springs (2-4) next week, while Aquinas plays host to Bishop Miege (4-1).
Oak Park 43, Lee’s Summit 35
Oak Park needed some late-quarter heroics for a change ... and got them from its defense and Travon Pankey. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior scored twice in the fourth quarter to help the Northmen hold off Lee’s Summit at home.
Pankey scored on a 1-yard run with 3:24 minutes left. His fourth TD of the game came with 1:08 remaining and gave Oak Park the cushion it needed to beat the Tigers.
Oak Park (6-0) forced a pair of late turnovers, the first when the Tigers had the ball trailing 29-27. Senior Churchill Coates intercepted a pass near midfield and returned it to the 30-yard line.
Evan Braxton ripped off a 20-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive to get Oak Park inside the Lee’s Summit 10. From there, Pankey carried it twice and scored on a 1-yard run.
The Northmen forced a turnover on downs with less than two minutes to play and Pankey’s final TD came via a 7-yard run. He took a handoff and bounced off his protection to the right before rumbling to the end zone.
The Tigers (2-4) scored with 3 seconds left to account for the final tally. Quarterback Dawson Heeney finished with four TD passes, hitting Brayden Davis, Landon Moutray, Jayden Gibson and Kasten Fiene.
Pankey’s other two TD runs went for 67 and 12 yards, respectively. Three of his TDs came in the second half.
In the first half, Oak Park got a field goal from Matthew Solorio and quarterback Aiden Hinkle threw a 46-yard TD pass to Braxton. Cornerback Donovan Ross added a first-quarter pick-six for the Northmen, who built a 15-0 lead before trading blows with the Tigers.
Oak Park, ranked No. 6 in the 810 Varsity Top 25, plays at North Kansas City next week. Lee’s Summit plays host to Park Hill (3-3).
St. Michael the Archangel 28, Van Horn 24
The Guardians could’ve played it safe, but St. Michael coach Andrew Pitts went with his gut.
Not opting for a field-goal attempt proved to be the smart choice. The Guardians found the end zone with 26 seconds left to win in Independence.
Through three quarters, the Guardians and Falcons combined for just 17 points. That all changed during the final 12 minutes, which featured four lead changes and five touchdowns.
St. Michael quarterback Cameron Zaun rushed for all three of the Guardians’ fourth-quarter TDs after passing for one in the first half.
Pitts credited the work of the St. Michael offensive line and the mental toughness of his team.
“I give the players credit for being resilient and persevering,” he said. “It’s hard to put this game into words right now. It was a lot of fun and our players did a great job.”
St. Michael (5-1) will look for its sixth win in seven games against East Buchanan (6-0) next Friday night. Van Horn (4-2) will try to get back into the win column at Summit Christian Academy.
St. James Academy 34, St. Pius X 17
A second-half blitz by St. James Academy gave the Thunder a much-needed outcome Friday night. The previously winless Thunder scored 27 second-half points en route to the road victory.
After the Warriors (4-2) took a brief 10-7 lead to start the second half, St. James caught fire. Quarterback Ben Wheeler hit Jack Alters for a 75-yard TD pass down the St. James sideline and a 14-10 Thunder lead.
Pius went ahead again on an 11-yard pass from Thomas Hutsler from Hudson Bailey with 6:13 left in the third period, but the scoring was all St. James from there.
Wheeler hit Parker Chase for a nine-yard touchdown pass and St. James’ defense padded the lead with a pick-six a few minutes later. Isaac Stanley tipped a pass, caught it and ran it back for a 19-yard TD.
John Tujague’s 49-yard TD run completed the scoring.
Pius started strong on Larry Cascone’s three-yard TD run to open the second quarter. The Thunder tied it before halftime when Wheeler hit Ryan Getz for a 38-yard gain, then found Sam Niesen for an 18-yard TD.
St. James plays host to Blue Valley West (2-3) next Friday, while the Warriors travel to Benton in St. Joseph.
For scores, stats, recaps, rankings, broadcasts and more, visit 810Varsity.com.