Saks lined up to go for the 2-point conversion three times after a time out and two Rogers timeouts, during which the Wildcats changed out of a jumbo formation and into a spread look. Saks quarterback Chase Johnson floated a ball to the corner of the end zone, but it was batted down by Rogers’ Tyler Grigsby, and the final score was set with 39 seconds to play: Rogers 14, Saks 13.
“We lined up and they called two time outs and they adjusted to it,” said Saks coach Clint Smith. “So we changed our play based on what we thought would work and they did a good job. They did a good job calling their timeouts and adjusting their defense to what we were going to do. It was just kind of a chess match, we just came up one play short.”
The desperation onside kick came up short too, and Saks exited the AHSAA 3A playoffs in the second round.
Saks (7-4) had problems with the size and strength of the Pirates line most of the night. But after stopping Rogers (10-2) short on fourth down inside the redzone right before the half, Saks was able to hold their own defensively but were only able to get one scoring drive against Rogers’ ball control offense. Rogers took a 14-7 lead into the locker room at half time.
“I just told them we have to keep doing what we’re doing and just stay in the game,” said Smith. “We were down by seven and we’d been there before all season. … We just had to go out and do everything at a higher level in the second half. And they did that, so hats off to the kids and the way they played, especially in the second half and coming back out and getting back in it.”
Rogers started their ball control game early, going 12 plays on their first drive before their score and Saks didn’t get the ball back until 7:10 had been eaten off the clock.
Saks’ only points of the first half came after they punted away on their first drive early in the second quarter. On first down, Rogers running back Alex Woodard took the handoff but was stripped of the ball by Saks’ Joshua Reynolds, Saks’ Rashard Williams scooped up the loose ball, giving Saks a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Cordarius Cooper punched it in and Saks tied the game up 7-7.
“It was just one of the best high school football games I’ve been involved with this year,” said Rogers coach Dan Beavers. “And both teams played a really physical ball game, both teams played hard. I think we were able to control the clock and limit their possessions and that was key for us winning the game tonight.”
The Wildcats returned to the playoffs and made it to the second round after missing the playoffs last year with a 4-5 record. This game marked the third time Saks had lost in the second round of the playoffs under Smith.
“This is about life, about diversity,” said Smith. “When you go out and work so hard for something, sometimes you’re going to come up short. We’ve got to get better, these seniors have meant a lot to this program, they’ve helped get us to where we are today. Hats off to them, they’re just an exceptional group of seniors. To the younger guys, we just have to get back to work and get better for next year.”