Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by NEOSPORTSPIX.COM
With just 42 seconds left in the game and 91 yards in front of them, the Bay Rockets faced long odds in their Saturday morning comeback attempt against visiting Westlake.
One of the biggest plays in Bay High history allowed the Rockets to cash in.
With just :06 left on the Memorial Stadium clock and the ball on the Demon 42, quarterback John Koz took the snap, and rolled to his right against the Westlake rush. Up field, he saw his 6-6 wide receiver, Rex Sunahara, racing open toward the south end zone.
Koz let it fly. Then THIS HAPPENED
The ball eluded the fingertips of a Westlake defender and settled in the hands of a leaping Sunahara in the back of the end zone. The Hail Mary had connected, giving the Rockets an improbable and stunning 35-33 win over the Demons in the final battle for The Little Brown Jug.
"On the sideline, I was actually standing right behind the ball," said Bay head coach Ron Rutt as he recalled the game's final play. "I could see its path, and I saw Rex jump up. It almost seemed like he came out of nowhere, and he grabbed it above everybody else.
"It took me a minute to realize we had won. I was in this process of being in hurry-up offense mode, worried about getting the next play in. Right before that last play, we yelled out to John 'hey, this is our last shot. You've got to put it in the end zone.'
"So yeah, it took me a couple of seconds after the catch to realize what had happened," he said with a smile.
It was a crazy ending to a game that had been suspended on Friday night due to weather conditions. The Rockets trailed 26-9 with 3:52 left in the third quarter when play was called due to approaching lightning. Then as play resumed Saturday morning, the home team found itself down 33-16 as the fourth quarter ticked away.
But the Rockets' offense continued to rack up yardage. Koz finished the game completing 19 of 27 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to Cole Gergye. The Bay receiver set a school reception record in the game with 11 catches for 185 yards as the Rockets crept closer.
A Westlake punt late in the game had Bay pinned back at its own 9-yard line. The Rockets steadily moved the ball up field, setting up the final game-winning play.
"It was supposed to be four verticals down the field," Koz said. "In the huddle, I told everyone to just meet up in the middle.
"But then I saw Rex running down the sideline. I eluded a little bit of pressure and just threw it up to him. I knew that was one he could get because of his height," he said.
"It helps that I'm 6-6," Sunahara admitted. "But really, I can't say enough about how great the protection was for John. Our center made a huge block, and our fullback made another block to help John roll out so he could find me.
"Without our offensive line, that play doesn't happen," he said.
Sunahara went on to describe what he saw as he was racing down field.
"I was just surprised that Westlake wasn't in the end zone," he said. "The defenders were at the 10-yard line, and I was wondering why they weren't dropping. It worked out for us. It was awesome."
As he rolled out to his right away from pressure, Koz said he felt the play had a chance.
"I definitely thought we had a chance," he said. "Their defense was pretty spread out, and we had been catching balls pretty well the whole game. I thought there was definitely a chance.
"Then I saw Rex catch it in the end zone. After that, I don't even remember. Everybody was running around everywhere, and it was pretty chaotic on the sidelines," he said.
Rutt described how his Rockets managed to fight their way back.
"When the game resumed on Saturday, we just kept surviving, Rutt said. "Play after play, we just had to survive to keep giving ourselves that shot.
"On that final drive, we gave ourselves that last-play chance. And it worked out for us. John did a heck of a job escaping and rolling out to his right, and he threw a perfect ball 50 yards down field.
"Rex went right up and caught it. When you look at the film, it was a team effort with our guys picking up the blitz. Our center, Sam Notarberardino, did a great job of picking up their blitzing linebacker, and our fullback, Danny Hoke, picked somebody up.
"Everybody together helped put that play together," he said.
Rutt said the comeback was a great example of his team working on each play's execution and every player involved making a contribution.
"Obviously, Rex and John had tremendous games, and Cole had a school record for receptions," Rutt said. "There were some great individual efforts. But each guy out there did their job enough for those guys do theirs.
"Any time you have someone making plays and putting up big numbers, you've got linemen blocking for them and other players executing. It was great to see," he said.
Bay now travels to Fairview this Friday night with a chance to improve to 3-0. The Warriors fell to 0-2 last weekend with a 48-18 loss at Vermilion in a game also suspended due to weather conditions.
"We're the first Bay team in 12-13 years to start the season 2-0," Koz said. "We've worked hard all summer. To be in this spot now feels great."
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Click on the cameras below for game photos from NEOSPORTSPIX.COM, along with video from Friday night and Saturday's final drive: