3 takeaways from Rochester's thrilling Leonard Bowl victory over Sacred Heart Griffin
ROCHESTER — Not many probably anticipated Rochester High School's secondary quarterback, Keeton Reiss, to score the game-winning touchdown.
Especially considering University of Illinois commit Hank Beatty's performance throughout the night in which he totaled five touchdowns in another Leonard Bowl classic featuring longtime Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Ken Leonard and son Derek on Rochester's sideline.
But Reiss delivered the go-ahead touchdown on a 7-yard keeper with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining to lift the Rockets, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A by The Associated Press, to a thrilling 45-41 Central State Eight Conference victory over rival SHG at Rocket Booster Stadium on Friday night.
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"Our line got a great push upfront and I just ran the ball in," Reiss said. "It was great."
THE DECIDING DRIVE
SHG, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, rallied from a 38-28 deficit in the fourth quarter and captured a 41-38 advantage after Bill Sanders' 3-yard TD run with just over four minutes left.
Beatty responded and used his feet to reach the SHG 7-yard line, except he had to sit out a play due to tacklers jarring off his helmet with 1:35 left.
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"I didn't know if I was going to be out for a play or if I could go back in," Beatty said. "They told me I had to sit out. I was so mad, but we have our big fullback-quarterback guy, he does everything. I was fine with him punching it in, he's a big boy and he's hard to stop, so I thought he did well tonight."
Reiss, who often shares the backfield with Beatty, was cramping up along the sideline before he subbed in for Beatty. He snapped the ball under center and simply ran up the middle across the goal line for his first rushing TD of the season.
"They're so big upfront and that was a great push," Reiss said of the offensive line. "I told them in the huddle they better push and I will get into the end zone. That's what happened. You can see the score, 45-41, that touchdown did everything. It's all to my o-line right there."
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Junior center Blake Buckles said that was his favorite play of the game.
"I didn't see it," Buckles said. "I was down on the turf with the nose tackle. I didn't really see him go into the end zone but when I heard that celebration, I knew something happened and I was so excited."
That offensive line allowed Beatty to put up staggering numbers. He had 28 carries for 314 yards and four touchdowns and completed 12 of 22 passing attempts for 134 yards and one touchdown.
Reiss ran for 11 yards and one TD and went 2-for-4 for 34 passing yards.
"He's a big boy and he can move," Beatty said of Reiss. "We can pretty much put him anywhere."
SHG (2-1 overall and in the CS8) shellacked Rochester's defense early and led 21-14 at the end of the first quarter.
But the Rockets didn't allow a first down on the Cyclones' final possession.
Rochester senior linebacker Daniel Chapin tackled receiver Madixx Morris for a loss on third down, and Beatty cemented the win with a tackle just a yard short of the first down.
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"It was a bubble and I was like, 'I got to go,'" Chapin said. "I wanted to make the tackle and get this game over with because we knew we needed one big stop at the end of the game to seal the victory. My mind just clicked and sprinted to the ball, didn't care."
Chapin had two sacks in the second half.
"We just trust each other and love each other," he said. "We play our tails off and we trust the other person is going to play their tails off. We're family. We're all family and we just want to play for each other."
NEVER SAY DIE
Rochester (2-1 overall, 2-0 CS8), which was coming off a 56-7 loss at 7A No. 2-ranked Wilmette Loyola Academy, seemed to have the game in hand early in the fourth quarter.
Chapin sacked SHG quarterback Ty Lott on fourth down and Beatty sprinted 38 yards for a 38-28 advantage with 10:55 left in the fourth quarter.
SHG turned the ball over on downs again on its next possession at midfield. Except Rochester went three-and-out and Lott followed with a 30-yard TD pass down the left sideline to junior wideout Jake Hamilton.
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After forcing another Rochester punt, Lott again connected with Hamilton on a similar route to reach the Rochester 9 and set up Sanders' second TD run.
Lott finished 32-for-46 for 419 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 50 yards on 17 attempts. Hamilton hauled in 12 catches for 182 yards and one touchdown. Junior wideout KeShon Singleton had nine receptions for 109 yards and three TDs.
Sophomore Parker Gillespie led Rochester's receiving corps with six catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.
"I think we got a little too comfortable with that 10-point lead and we let off a little bit," Beatty said. "They came back and they played hard. They played a great game the entire four quarters, so just trying to fight through that last quarter and make sure everybody didn't lose their nerves and kept going.
"It was amazing. I'm proud of our team and I'm proud of their team for what they did."
SHG returns home with another big game at 7 p.m. Friday against Springfield High (2-0). Rochester plays 7 p.m. Friday at Decatur Eisenhower (0-2).
Contact Bill Welt: email@example.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt.