Playoff football games, often between evenly matched teams, often are won by the team that keeps from getting tired at the end. But not this kind of tired.
When the Class 4A first-round playoff game between Winfield and Rose Hill ended, after midnight, with a 14-12 Winfield victory, it was past Jordan Johnson’s bedtime. It was past just about everyone’s bedtime.
But Johnson, Winfield’s senior running back, helped his team overcome sluggishness after a three-hour weather delay just after the game began. Then served as the workhorse who didn’t become emotionally fatigued or physically tired when the Vikings needed him the most.
Johnson rushed for 92 hard-fought yards and a Winfield safety broke a 12-12 tie in the third quarter and ultimately enabled the Vikings to advance to Saturday’s second round to play at Topeka Hayden.
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“It’s exciting,” Johnson said. “We had our chances in the first half, but luckily enough we rallied together and came through at the end. I would’ve liked in a little better way, but I’ll take it.”
Neither the constant downpour during a delay mostly for lightning or the long break before the team’s finally retook the field did any favors for the smoothness of the game early.
Each team fumbled within its first two plays because of the slippery football; receivers dropped passes and windy conditions affected the passing game as both quarterbacks threw early interceptions.
Rose Hill was first to stave off the sloppiness, scoring on a 10-play drive that ended when quarterback Brett Bonar rushed for a 12-yard touchdown. Rose Hill made the prospects for a comeback by the sluggish Vikings more improbably when Garrett Forsberg returned an interception for a touchdown.
Forsberg’s score on Winfield’s third play of the second half only briefly delayed the Vikings’ control of the game. Winfield decided at halftime to aggressively pursue Bonar, and Rose Hill couldn’t adjust to the adjustment. Bonar was sacked 11 times, seven in the second half, and the Rockets never regained the offensive advantage.
“I think it came down to pretty decent coverage and great line pressure,” Winfield coach Justin Price said. “We were able to bring four and get pressure on the quarterback. That’s a slippery quarterback, so we were a little nervous that he was going to slip out and complete a few more passes than they could.”
Winfield’s defense created opportunities for points, as the Vikings scored on 50- and 29-yard touchdown drives without PAT conversions to tie it 12-12. The most important defensive play was yet to come.
After already having a punt turned into a rush attempt because of a poor snap, Rose Hill couldn’t handle a long snap from deep in its own territory, and as the ball bounced to the ground in the end zone, Winfield swarmed it to earn what turned out to be the game-winning safety.
Johnson, who carried the ball on 17 of Winfield’s 29 second-half plays, got Winfield to Rose Hill’s 25-yard line on the Vikings’ final series before a fourth-down sack ended it.
The Rockets improbably completed two fourth-down plays and a long third-down conversion but couldn’t cap the drive that ended with a sack and a not-quite-long-enough pass to Forsberg before time expired.
“I always had faith in my team,” Johnson said. “I know that my players will have my back until the end. It’s nerve-wracking, but I trust that they’ll get the job done for us.”
Rose Hill (4-6);0;6;6;0;12
RH_Bonar 12 run (kick failed)
RH_Forsberg 25 INT return (pass failed)
W_Johnson 8 run (kick failed)
W_Adler 1 run (pass failed)
W_Safety (fumble recovered in end zone)
Rushing_Rose Hill, Forsberg 17-89, McBride 4-29, D. Rodman 1-7, Helmke 1-(-11), Team 1-(-11), Bonar 17-(-41). Winfield, Johnson 22-92, Amezcua 1-1, Mays 8-(-2), Adler 4-(-20).
Passing_Rose Hill, Bonar 12-24-110-2. Winfield, Adler 10-19-76-2.
Receiving_Rose Hill, McBride 4-52, Forsberg 4-31, Haydock 4-27. Winfield, Camp 3-27, Herlocker 2-15, Crandall 2-13, Mays 2-9, Suttles 1-12.