By Matt Turer // @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It was closer for longer into Friday night’s game between the state-ranked Irish and the winless Wildcats than anyone thought coming in, but a dominant running game and a key turnover changed that.
And ensured that a legendary coach reached a big milestone.
Tyson Riley ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns, Nick Crites added 117 yards and two of his own, and the Springfield Catholic Fightin’ Irish used 28 second-half points to pull away from Logan-Rogersville in a 42-7 final in the Class 3 district quarterfinals.
The win sent the Irish into the district semifinals and was the 300th career win for long-time head coach Steve Hancock.
“It’s pretty special,” an emotional Hancock said after being handed the game ball by Hunter Brown. “It’s one of those things you never think you’ll ever get.
“I’m glad they’ve given me the opportunity to be here and continue my coaching career.”
It wasn’t easy for Hancock and the Irish. Zachary Bergmann and Brock Carter put the upset-minded Wildcats ahead 7-0 with a 19-yard touchdown strike late in the first quarter.
The Irish tied the game 7-7 early in the second on a Crites scamper from a yard out and took the lead 14-7 just before the half when Tyson Riley threw across his body to Hunter Brown for a nine-yard touchdown.
“Coming out of halftime we knew to just stick with what we’ve been doing all year and keep grinding away,” Crites said. “We talked about scheme-wise some things to fix and we just went out and executed.”
But just when the Irish seemed ready to run away with the game, the Wildcats forced a fumble to open the third quarter and quickly drove to the Irish five-yard line. That’s when Brown made one of the game’s biggest plays, reading Bergmann’s eyes and coming up with a goal line interception.
“Huge interception,” Crites said. “Great play by Hunter. Big-time play. That would’ve changed the whole dynamic of the game if he would’ve scored there.”
Riley answered with a 68-yard touchdown run and the route was on from there. Riley added two more touchdowns in the final two quarters.
“You’ve gotta give Rogersville credit,” Hancock said. “Their kids came ready to play. It was by no means an easy ballgame. But our kids came out in the second half and took care of business.”
Catholic’s defense fed off Brown’s interception. Wallace Squibb picked off Bergmann later in the second half. Squibb, George Hall, Tyler Welch and Kye Alms all recorded sacks.
The Irish finished with 352 yards of offense to 256 for the Wildcats.
“We’ve had some close games this year, and we just challenged them to keep playing and finish right,” Wildcats coach Mark Talbert said. “That’s been our motto all year. They did a great job tonight. I was proud of them.”
Bergmann was 14 of 26 for 192 yards and a touchdown for Rogersville. Ryker Strong caught five balls for 62 yards.
Will Crites carried the ball eight times for 60 yards.
Springfield Catholic will face Eldon next Friday in the district semifinals. Eldon has eliminated Catholic in district play the past two seasons.
LR | 7 | 0 | 0 | 0 | — 7
SC | 0 | 14 | 21 | 7 | — 42
LR — TD — 0:05 — Brock Carter 19 Yd pass from Zachary Bergmann (PAT Good) — 7-0 LR
SC — TD — 8:53 — Nick Crites 1 Yd run — 7-7
SC — TD — 0:04 — Hunter Brown 9 Yd pass from Tyson Riley (PAT Good) — 14-7 SC
SC — TD — 7:35 — Tyson Riley 68 Yd run (PAT Good) — 21-7 SC
SC — TD — 4:29 — Tyson Riley 10 Yd run (PAT Good) — 28-7 SC
SC — TD — 1:58 — Nick Crites 14 Yd run (PAT Good) — 35-7 SC
SC — TD — 8:27 — Tyson Riley 14 Yd run (PAT Good) — 42-7 SC