Over the course of any close high school football game, there are usually several plays that can be considered game changers.
But in Rose Hill’s 21-15 win at Wellington Friday night, one call — or from Wellington’s perspective, a no-call —changed the entire complexion of the game.
Trailing 7-2 in the third quarter, the Crusaders were threatening to score and faced a 4th-and-4 at the Rose Hill 25. Jeremy Edwards threw a deep pass to Levi Anderson, who appeared to encounter illegal contact from several defenders.
Much to the disgust of Wellington coach Lin Hibbs, no flags were thrown. Hibbs then received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and was ejected.
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He was unavailable for comment after the game.
Instead of the automatic first down inside Rose Hill’s 15, the Crusaders turned the ball over on downs.
Two plays later, Rose Hill quarterback Derrick Decker found Dillon Rapp on a fly pattern for a 51-yard touchdown.
What could have been a potential 9-7 lead turned into a two-score deficit.
“They were going to go in to score, so getting the ball back and capitalizing was huge for us,” Rose Hill coach Greg Slade said. “We got the ball back in decent field position, and that gave us the chance to capitalize.”
Both team’s emotions were on edge, especially in the second half after Hibbs was ejected. Rose Hill was penalized 15 times, Wellington 10 times.
“I brought them all together after we went up 14-2 and told them to be quiet and play with our pads,” Slade said. “Those were the things we had to do to win the football game.”
Slade viewed his team’s win as survival, and much of that was credited to the Rockets’ defense.
Aside from the Crusaders’ late scoring drive, which featured three plays of 20 or more yards, Rose Hill held Wellington’s offense to 129 yards.
The Rockets were especially effective on third downs, where Wellington was 3 for 12.
“They kind of ran the same type of offense that we do,” Rose Hill linebacker Jake Dunshee said. “But we just kept flying around trying to get to the football.”
Decker was asked to take the reigns of the offense this week after starter Tyler Shirley was injured last week against Andale.
Decker made some nice plays on offense — 184 yards and three touchdowns — but also made some mistakes, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once.
“Derrick made some plays but had some mistakes too,” Slade said. “But like everywhere else, we’ll go back and see what we need to correct.”