Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
A fourth down stop. A 42-yard field goal. A never-before-used 2-point conversion play.
Oh, and throw in a school record rushing performance.
Those were the ingredients for one of the biggest wins in the modern history of Bay football.
The Rockets, down 24-21 with 51 seconds left in regulation, got an Alec White 42-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Then on their second OT possession, they converted the 2-point conversion to pull out a stunning 39-38 win over rival Rocky River Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Bay moved to 6-3 on the season and kept their playoff hopes alive in Division IV, Region 11. According to JoeEitel.com, the Rockets were in sixth place after Friday night's win, with the top eight teams reaching the OHSAA tournament.
Bay has not been to the playoffs since 1993, according to head coach Ron Rutt. A number of big plays and big-time performances may have broken that drought.
After Rocky River failed to convert a fourth down play in Rocket territory, the home team worked its way down field. A 13-yard pass play from John Koz to Cole Gergye got the Rockets to the River 48, and a Koz run went to the 40.
An illegal procedure call slowed things a bit, but a 25-yard pass from Koz to running back Nick Best moved the ball down to the 20 with 17 seconds left. A spike play and an incomplete pass were followed by a 37-yard field goal attempt by White.
He split the uprights, but a delay of game penalty was called on the Rockets. The 5-yard difference didn't seem to bother White one bit as he made the 42-yard attempt to tie the game at 24-all. Bay's kickoff team stopped River near midfield, and the game went into overtime.
The two teams traded touchdowns and conversion kicks in the first overtime session. River got the ball first in the second session, and the Pirates cashed in immediately as Lowry hit Pat Connors in the back of the end zone on the very first play.
Goepfert added the conversion kick, and the Pirates had a 38-31 lead. Bay's offense then took the field, needing a touchdown for a chance to tie. As it turned out, a tie was not in the works.
Best, who ran for a school-record 376 yards on the night, ran the ball twice for a pair of seven-yard gains to the River 6-yard line. He was shaken up on the next carry, a 2-yard loss, and left the field. Undaunted, Koz rolled out on second down and eight.
He found tight end Kyle Thompson in the end zone and fired a bullet that connected for the score. The Rockets immediately called timeout to set up a potential game-winning 2-point play.
On the snap, Koz rolled out again and found Thompson all alone in the end zone for the game-winner. The Rockets and their fans stormed the field in celebration, while the Pirates stared in disbelief.
"The credit on that 2-point play goes to our offensive coordinator, Kyle Barberic," Rutt said. "It was a play he put in about two weeks ago as a potential 2-point play.
"I was kind of arguing with him on the phones. I wanted to run one of our base running plays, and he said no, we're going with the pass. He's the offensive coordinator for a reason.
"We ran it a couple times in practice as a 2-point play. We pulled it out here, and it worked," he said.
But the Rockets may not have had that opportunity had it not been for Best, who ran the ball 41 times and scored three touchdowns on the night.
"You can't describe this with words," said Best amongst the pandemonium around him.
"All the summer workouts we went through. The throwing up, the tears, the blood, the sweat. Everything. That's what defines this moment. Everything we did to work up to this moment.
"It's like winning the Jug earlier this year. I just can't believe it. This is unreal," he said.
A 33-yard field goal by Rocky River's Matt Goepfert early in the fourth quarter had given the Pirates a 24-21 lead. Neither team could score on their next two possession, though Rocky River had a chance to close things out late in regulation.
The Pirates had driven down to the Bay 31 yard line, but faced a fourth down and four with 56 seconds left. Pirates head coach Rick Adams called a pair of timeouts, needing a first down to seal the deal. Bay had used all of its timeouts and needed a stop.
And that's what they got. Junior Rex Sunahara broke through and sacked River quarterback Matt Lowry for an eight-yard loss, and Bay had the football at its own 39-yard line with 51 seconds left.
"It was a good game by both teams," said Rocky River head coach Rick Adams, whose team fell to 5-4 on the season and took a hit in the Division II, Region 8 standings.
"We had a chance there to win it at the end of regulation. But we've got to run the clock out, and we didn't do it," Adams continued. "We came up 54 seconds short. We needed a first down, and we didn't get it. That's my fault. I've got to get our kids in a position to get that first down. Obviously, we didn't do that.
"This one hurts a lot. Both teams played their hearts out, and we came up one point short," he added.
Lowry had touchdown passes to Travis Smith and Eric Jones in the first half, but a missed field goal on the final play of the first half kept the game tied at 14-14. Bay took the lead on a Koz-to-Sunahara pass play, but River responded with a another score to keep it tied, 21-21, heading into the fourth quarter.
An interception by Jack Rodgers stopped a potential Bay scoring drive late in the third quarter, and a sack of Koz by Titus Snavely ended another Rocket drive in the fourth.
"We got a couple of turnovers, and we had a stop before the end of the half," Adams said of his defense. "That gave us the opportunity right before the half to attempt a field goal and take the lead.
"So yes, our defense made some good plays tonight, but we didn't capitalize. We were two of six in our possessions in the first half," Adams said. "For us, getting two touchdowns out of six possessions isn't good enough. We've got to do a better job there. Then we stalled a bit in the third quarter.
"But the end of the game, that's my fault. It never should have come down to an overtime. We should have run the clock down when we needed to, and we didn't," he concluded.
At that point, the drive for the tying field goal began.
As his team and community continued to celebrate, Rutt reflected on what his team had just accomplished.
"I'm just thinking about how much heart these kids have," Rutt said. "We were down, but just never wore out. Our kids just kept on fighting.
"I'm very proud of the effort. Our defense came up with a big stand there at the end," Rutt said. "When it was down to under two minutes to go, we were calling timeouts trying to get the ball back. We came up with that stop there to give ourselves a shot offensively.
"We wear able to move it down field just enough to get what wound up being a heck of a field goal right there. It was a tremendous effort all around," he said.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game: