ANTHONY – Two days before Cheney sophomore Micah Grover was set to make his second career start in a crucial district game, he learned that one of his biggest fans, his grandfather, had died.
The past 72 hours have since become a whirlwind.
But for two hours on a Friday night on a football field, Grover found clarity. He stepped up in the pocket and delivered big-time throws like a seasoned veteran, not like a 16-year-old boy who had just lost a family member.
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It was clear Grover was playing for something more than a victory, which he secured by throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of Cheney’s 35-28 victory over Chaparral, and the Class 3A-District 9 championship that came with it.
The winner of next week’s Chaparral-Conway Springs game will receive the second playoff berth from the district.
“I wanted to get the win for him,” said Grover, as the tears began to form thinking of his grandfather. “He would have had a hell of time. He would have had fun.”
He would have had fun watching Cheney (6-2, 2-0) score three touchdowns in a span of seven plays in the first quarter to build a 21-0 lead over Chaparral (6-2, 1-1), as tailback Austin Ray scored all three touchdowns.
He would have had fun watching Cheney respond to adversity, as Grover and the offense became stagnant in the second half and watched Chaparral rally to tie the score at 28 with 10:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But he would have had the most fun watching his grandson fake a handoff on fourth down, roll to his right and deliver a dart to Brandon Jones for the go-ahead, 4-yard touchdown pass with 7:18 left.
“He’s clutch, this team is clutch,” said Jones, who caught both of Grover’s touchdown passes. “It was just an incredible performance.”
Grover was never supposed to play quarterback for Cheney, at least not this season. At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, the sophomore is actually still listed as a lineman on Cheney’s roster.
But when senior Austin Wheelock went down with an injury right before district play, Cheney coach Cory Brack trusted Grover to blossom into a leader.
He has now led Cheney to back-to-back victories over Conway Springs and Chaparral, completing 10 of 17 passes for 130 yards and two scores on Friday.
“You could tell he had a heavy heart all week,” Brack said. “I told him, ‘You’ve seen some pro athletes and college guys go through these things and they have great games. Your grandpa would have wanted you to play well for him. But for a 15-year-old kid, that’s still tough. I was super proud of him.”
If there was ever any doubt that Grover could lead this team, he erased it on Friday night. Not just from his play, but from what he overcame to do it.
“He played amazing,” Cheney senior Noah Schomacker said. “He couldn’t have played a better game. I love him and the rest of our team loves him. We trust him 100 percent.”
That meant a lot to Grover, hearing that from a senior leader. But on a night that should have ended with Grover feeling like the hero, he was holding back tears walking off the field.
“This was just awesome,” Grover said. “We’re going to see (his grandfather’s family) on Saturday.”
Che – Ray 80 run (Craig kick)
Che – Ray 30 run (Craig kick)
Che – Ray 10 run (Craig kick)
Cha – Ad. Clark 27 pass from Patterson (Escobar kick)
Cha – Jenkins 1 run (run failed)
Che – Jones 37 pass from Grover (Craig kick)
Cha – Jenkins 1 run (Eslinger pass from Patterson)
Cha – Jenkins 14 run (Escobar kick)
Che – Jones 4 pass from Grover (Craig kick)
Rushing – Cheney, Ray 17-147, Quick 1-4, Hubener 1-0, Jones 1-(-3), Schell 1-(-13), Grover 10-(-28); Chaparral, Jenkins 22-94, Overton 7-24, Patterson 14-22, Ad. Clark 6-13, Valderas 3-11, Escobar 1-(-10).
Passing – Cheney, Grover 10-17-130-0; Chaparral, Patterson 11-22-153-3.
Receiving – Cheney, Jones 6-89, Lies 2-37, Ray 2-4; Chaparral, Ad. Clark 4-75, Valderas 2-35, Overton 3-24, Eslinger 1-10, Bringer 1-9.