(Photo by Chris Pobst)
SCOTT CITY -- With his team trying to protect a field goal earned in the opening possession of overtime, Scott City sophomore Jake Elders sent Herculaneum fans home reeling when he denied the Blackcats what appeared to be the game-winning score.
Holding a fresh set of downs and just five yards from the goal line, Herculaneum turned to star running back Dustin Johnson for his 27th carry of the game.
Johnson powered through the line and was just feet from the end zone when Elders stripped the junior tailback, sending the ball rolling into the end zone up for grabs.
Sealing the win for the Rams, senior Travis Phillips hopped on the ball to close out a 9-6 win with a touchback.
"I was thinking how many times can they run that play and us not tackle," Scott City head coach Jim May said of the play. "We had a sophomore (Jake Elders) who was filling in for Gordon Bradley, who got hurt. He pops him, fumbles the ball and Phillips recovers it.
"That's the ball game. It was a great play."
The goal line stand made good on a tough decision Scott City was forced to make when they faced fourth and goal from the five yard line their previous possession.
Scott City had been as close as the one-yard line on third down, after starting on their own 25, when the Blackcats busted through on a run play and forcing a loss of four yards.
Trusting in their defense and in kicker Jonathan McFall, the Rams elected for a field goal which McFall hit from 22 yards out to from the left hash mark to give his team the lead.
"If we wouldn't have lost four yards I probably (would have went for it)," May said. "But once we did that it was time to kick a field goal."
When it was Herculaneum's turn to at least match the Ram's effort, they turned to Johnson to shoulder the load. Carrying four times on the drive, Johnson helped guide the Blackcats down to the 16, where he broke off an 11-yard run on 4th-and-1 to keep his teams hopes alive.
Just one play later, fortune had turned the Rams' way as Phillips said he was in the right place at the right time.
"I was going in there and was going to try to stop him so I lowered my shoulder," Phillips said. "The ball just came out so I jumped on top of it."
Though things may ended on a sour note, Johnson was the main cog that allowed the Blackcats to play even with the Rams through regulation. Johnson's carries accounted for 199 yards of his team's 264 yards from scrimmage and scored his team's only touchdown right before the half.
Johnson's score came on the heels of Scott City taking their first lead of the game with 3:58 left in the first half. Starting on the Blackcats 48-yard line, the Rams marched down the fielder before Phillips took a handoff up the middle from 10 yards out to put Scott City up 6-0.
The Rams were nearly able to take that lead into the half, but a fumbled handoff as they tried to run down the final minutes before the break allowed Herculaneum to recover on Scott City's 15 yard line.
After being pushed back by a holding penalty, Johnson ran in from 21 yards out to tie the game with 31 seconds remaining in the half.
Scott City missed two a pair of big opportunities in the contest where they had within two yard of the end zone. The first came on the Rams opening drive when, after drive 66 yards, a dropped pass on 4th and goal from the two yard line gave the Blackcats the ball.
In the third quarter the Rams drove into Herculaneum territory, where a two yard run from Phillips gave them first and goal from the one-yard line. Before long a couple penalties and a few unproductive plays had the Rams backed out as far as the 20 yard line with an interception eventually ending the drive.
"I got some stuff to work on this week, everybody has stuff to work on," McFall said, who also serves as the Rams' starting quarterback. "But overall I'm just pumped we got our first win."
SC -- Travis Phillips 10 run (run failed), 3:58
H -- Dustin Johnson 21 run (kick missed), 0:31
SC -- Jon McFall 22 FG
Rushing -- Herculaneum -- Dustin Johnson 27-185, Billy Duncan 14-12, Nico Brown 2-0, Joshua Chruch 7-(-1). Scott City -- Travis Phillips 31-165, Logan Farmer 3-24, Jon McFall 3-17, Zach Haynes 4-9.
Passing -- Herculaneum -- Billy Duncan 7-18-68. Scott City -- Jon McFall 7-23-90, Travis Phillips 1-1-31.
Receiving -- Herculaneum -- Sean Hudson 1-10, Brady Womacks 2-23, Aaron Fuller 2-19, Dustin Johnson 1-14, Shaquon Brass 1-2. Scott City -- Travis Phillips 3-26, Ryan Fortner 3-34, Brett Dirnberger 2-61.