Rockets strike back

Tom Batters
Metamora coach Pat Ryan watches the last few seconds of the Redbirds 50-17 loss at Rochester Saturday in the Class 4A semifinal.

When Metamora senior quarterback Michael Fay hit sophomore Dekota Doerr for a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut Rochester’s lead to 13-10 with 5:55 left in the first half, it felt like the Redbirds were right back in the game.

Rochester, however, scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass on its next play to make it 21-10, and the Rockets piled on the points after that en route to a 50-17 win over Metamora in the Class 4A semifinal game.

The win avenged a 41-40 loss to Metamora in last year’s semifinal game. It ended the Redbirds’ season and closed the book on the 2010 senior class, which was one of the most successful classes in MTHS football history.

A contrast in class...

Rochester coach Derek Leonard took that 2009 loss personally and has been waiting a whole year to get back at the Redbirds.

After the Rockets scored to make it 48-10 early in the fourth quarter, Leonard went for the two-point conversion to make it 50-10, which triggered the running clock (the clock doesn’t stop if a team is ahead by 40 points or more).

I asked Leonard about the decision to go for two when he was are already ahead by 38 points late in the game. He initially tried to dance around the answer, but his real motive was fairly obvious.

“We had missed so many extra points. I decided we had a better chance to go for two,” he said. “I’m sure Metamora wanted to get out of here quickly. I’m sure they didn’t mind having the running clock there … Last year was heartbreaking for us. We felt like we should have won that game. We didn’t deserve to lose. That game was taken from us. We’ve been waiting a whole year for this chance.”

Metamora coach Pat Ryan downplayed Leonard’s decision to go for two.

“They won fair and square. I’m not going to make this about sour grapes, or anything like that. That’s their choice (to go for two). Besides, we couldn’t stop them,” he said.

I asked Ryan if he would have gone for two in that situation, and he answered quickly and convincingly, “No.”

Leonard also went for two (on a fake extra point attempt) to make it a 40-10 game with 2:32 left in the third quarter.

Perhaps I’m making a bigger issue out of this than it deserves.

It’s not the first time a coach has taken a jab at his opponent, and it won’t be the last time a coach thinks it’s flashy and cool to run up the score.

The Rockets were clearly the better team Saturday. As Ryan said, they won fair and square.

“We knew coming in that they would be a tough challenge,” Ryan said. “They have a very good team. We scored, but they came right back and scored on us. You have to give them credit. They played a great game.”

Ryan graciously shook hands and congratulated the Rochester players and coaches (including Leonard) after the game. I could write an entire column documenting how Ryan is always a first class guy in victory and defeat, but I think Redbird fans know that already.

Back to the game...

The Redbirds got off to a miserable start on their first possession, which started at their own 10-yard line.

Fay ran for five yards on the first play, but the Redbirds committed a penalty on second down to push it back to the 10-yard line.

Four plays later, a high snap went in between Fay and senior Colton Willett and neither one could recover the ball before a Rochester defensive lineman pounced on it at the Metamora 30-yard line.

The Rockets needed just three plays to score (a Colten Glazebrook 25-yard touchdown run) to make it 7-0 with 7:06 left in the first quarter. Glazebrook ran for 198 yards and the Rockets had 452 total yards of offense.

The Redbirds fumbled again on their next possession, but this time senior tight end Andrew Jones recovered the ball. The drive stalled, however, and Metamora was forced to punt from its own 27-yard line.

Senior running back/receiver David Tracy, one of Metamora’s most valuable players, left the game with an ankle injury with 7:18 left in the first quarter. He returned later in the first half, but did not touch the ball for the rest of the game.

Rochseter quarterback Wes Lunt overthrew a wide-open Michael Gunter way downfield and the Rockets punted on their next possession.

Despite two fumbled snaps (both recovered by Fay), the Redbirds advanced to the Rocket 19-yard line on their next drive. The key play in that drive was Fay’s eight-yard run on fourth down and three.

Fay hit Jones for a 20-yard completion to the Rochester 21-yard line, but the Redbirds could not get much further.

Senior Brennen VanMieghem made a 35-yard field goal to get the Redbirds on the board (7-3 with :06 left in the first quarter).

Rochester put together a nine-play drive that resulted in a 27-yard touchdown run through the middle to make it a 13-3 game (the extra point was wide left) with 10:39 left in the first half.

Junior Charlie Nowotnik carried the ball six straight times to start the next drive. He gained three first downs and led the Redbirds to the Rochester 24-yard line.

Nowotnik had 117 yards rushing. Fay ran for 122 yards.

On fourth down and 10 from the 24 yard line (within VanMieghem’s field goal range), Ryan went for it. A Metamora penalty pushed it back to the 29-yard line.

Fay passed to Doerr, who was open over the middle, for a short pass and Doerr ran the rest of the way fir the touchdown. The extra point was good to cut Rochester’s lead to 13-10 with 5:55 left in the half.

Lunt hit Traves Everly for a 79-yard touchdown pass on the next play, and the two-point conversion run was good to make it 21-10 with 5:39 left.

“That was a big play,” Leonard said. “We were worried that we were going to go back and forth and trade scores like we did last year, but that touchdown gave us a big edge.”

After Metamora punted (after three plays and out), Rochester needed just two plays to strike again.

Lunt connected with Everly, this time for a 67-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was good to make it 28-10 with 2:51 left.

Nowotnik and Fay shared the carries and led the Redbirds to the Rochester 18-yard line in the final minute of the first half, but they failed to get into the end zone.

On third down from the 18 yard line, Fay ran for a first down to the 8-yard line.

The clock showed :12, but the Redbirds only managed to run one more play.

Fay, who was pressured from the Rochester line, heaved a pass out of bounds in the back of the end zone as time expired, and the Redbirds went into halftime trailing 28-10.

Glazebrook burst through the middle and scored a long touchdown on the Rockets’ first possession of the second half to make it 34-10 (the extra point failed).

“We couldn’t stop the run. That hurt us,” Ryan said. “That opened up their passing game, too.”

Rochester added three touchdowns and a safety in the second half. Fay scored with 3:46 left to add one more touchdown to his illustrious career.

“This loss doesn’t change Michael’s legacy” Ryan said. “There aren’t many quarterbacks who can say they’ve led their team to three straight semifinals and two state championships.”

More next week...

Ryan said he was disappointed with the outcome, but it does not diminish his pride in this team, especially the seniors who lost just four games in four years.

“We’re not going to hang our heads. I’m very proud of this group. When you look back at what they have accomplished (four straight semifinal appearances and two state titles in four years), it’s pretty darn good.”

See next week’s edition for a look back at the season and a tribute to the 2010 senior class.

• Tom Batters is sports editor of the Woodford Times. He can be reached at 686-3261, or