Danger loomed for Heights at the start of the fourth quarter, as the Falcons trailed Kapaun Mount Carmel at Cessna Stadium by four points and their star quarterback, K’Vonte Baker, was hobbled by a leg injury.
In order to extend their winning streak, the Falcons would need a spark from a player other than Baker, the typical lightning-rod for big plays. On Friday night, it was Heights senior linebacker Ja’Veon Johnson, who jumped an out route on third down and nearly returned the interception for a score.
The turnover would spark a two-touchdown swing in Heights’ favor, as it would rally in the fourth quarter for a 34-24 victory over Kapaun. The Falcons (4-2) won their fourth straight game since an 0-2 start, while Kapaun (4-2) lost its second straight game after a 4-0 start.
“Big-time players make big-time plays and I’m a big-time player,” Johnson said. “I should have scored, but hey, I made a big-time play when my team needed me. I did what I had to do.”
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Johnson’s interception set Baker up for an eight-yard dance into the end zone, as the junior quarterback flew the final three yards through the air over defenders for the go-ahead score with 9:11 remaining.
The following drive, Heights’ defense would once again provide the momentum. Hagen Henderson produced a critical sack on third down to force a Kapaun punt, which Dalen Williams would smother after breaking through the blocking and pouncing on the ball at the Kapaun 7-yard line.
Baker once again delivered the touchdown, this time darting right, then reversing the field and sprinting past the defenders to the left pylon for the game-clinching touchdown and 34-24 lead.
“Our best players were making plays when it mattered the most,” Heights coach Terry Harrison said. “We pride ourselves in our fourth-quarter play here at Heights and our best players showed up when it mattered tonight in the fourth.”
The victory seemed in doubt when play had to be stopped after a Baker run near the end of the first half. He said after the game that he took a blow from a helmet directly to his leg. He exited the game, then returned at the start of the third quarter but was visibly limping between plays.
But as the game wore on, Baker seemingly regained his strength, speed, and acceleration.
“I couldn’t show any weakness,” Baker said. “I had to be strong for my team.”
Baker finished the game with 205 rushing yards on 32 carries and four touchdowns, while he also completed five of eight passes for 67 yards. Armaad Hubbard added 99 rushing yards and a touchdown. Kapaun was led by another triple-digit rushing performance by senior Nick Channel, who turned 20 carries into 116 yards and a 45-yard touchdown.
Kapaun coach Dan Adelhardt shook his head after the game in discussing how to defend Baker.
“You can’t simulate that type of speed in practice,” Adelhardt said. “We tried and tried and tried, but you miss one read or one tackle and all it takes is one second and he’s gone. And he’s not only shifty, but he’s strong. We hit, hit and hit and I think he knew he was in a football game. I was proud of our defense.”
After Baker led Heights to touchdown drives on the first two possessions, including a 58-yard touchdown run, Kapaun appeared to be in trouble with a shootout looming.
But the Crusaders’ defense stiffened and they rallied to score the final 10 points of the first half, as Preston Williams drilled a 55-yard field goal seconds before halftime to give Kapaun a 17-14 lead.
Travis Phelps scored his second rushing touchdown late in the third quarter to give Kapaun a 24-20 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the interception and blocked punt were too much for the Crusaders to overcome.
Despite an 0-2 start, Heights will now have a chance to once again force a three-way tie for first place in the City League with a victory next Friday against Bishop Carroll.
“That’s all you can ask for,” Harrison said. “We we started out slow, I still said all of our goals are still attainable and they still are. It’s always a big matchup when you get Carroll and Heights together, so we’re looking forward to playing them.”
H—Baker 1 run (Hatchett kick)
K—Channel 45 run (Williams kick)
H—Baker 58 run (Hatchett kick)
K—Phelps 1 run (Williams kick)
K—Williams 55 field goal
H—Hubbard 45 run (kick failed)
K—Phelps 1 run (Williams kick)
H—Baker 9 run (Hatchett kick)
H—Baker 11 run (Hatchett kick)
Rushing—Heights, Baker 32-205, Hubbard 16-99, Edwards 1-2, Kirkendoll 1-(-8); Kapaun, Channel 20-116, Phelps 7-24, Perkins 1-20, Valentas 5-10, Ferraro 1-1, Hacking 6-(-15).
Passing—Heights, Baker 5-8-67-1; Kapaun, Hacking 10-20-119-1.
Receiving—Heights, Edwards 3-42, Kirkendoll 2-25; Kapaun, Williams 4-55, Valentas 2-34, Nye 2-14, Schmitz 1-8, Hutton 1-8.