CHICAGO -- Facing adversity for the third time in as many games this season, the Rock Island football team held strong when it mattered most.|
With their backs resting against their own goal line late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Rocks stopped three fourth-down attempts from Chicago Brooks. The late stand enabled Rocky, despite not playing its best, to leave Gately Stadium with a 33-28 win on a sun-splashed day.
"There's certainly a high level of frustration I saw in our kids," Rocky coach Bryan Stortz said. "The ability to maintain your composure in those types of situations says a lot about our kids. They did a great job finding a way to battle even though we had a lot of tough spots."
Quite possibly the toughest spot was the fourth quarter. After forcing a Rocky (2-1) punt, Brooks (1-2) took over at its own 29 with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left and orchestrated a drive that began with some controversy. On first down, Ahmad Bradshaw threw what Rocky coaches thought was a forward pass that hit the ground before Dakota Starks picked it up and ran 16 yards. Rocky thought it was an incompletion, but the officials ruled it a lateral and an Eagles first down.
A 14-yard completion and 12-yard run followed, putting Brooks on the Rocky 27 as the clock dipped below two minutes. Six plays later, the Eagles faced 4th-and-12 on the 13 before being stopped short on a 3-yard run. However, the Rocks were whistled for a 5-yard facemask penalty, giving Brooks a 4th-and-3 from the 4.
"Crazy. They made plays and we couldn't stop them for a little while," Rocky senior defensive back Ashton Faramelli said. "But we never gave up. We played with insanity out there."
Brooks gained a first down on its second fourth-down attempt, but was whistled for holding. Given a third attempt, Rocky stuffed the Eagles to regain possession on downs with :09.8 left.
"I don't even know what to call that. That was great," Rocky senior quarterback Zach Chapman said. "They just kept it together and made a stop."
The fourth quarter featured drama with seemingly every snap. On its last offensive possession, Rocky was whistled for a hold on first down as it neared midfield. Instead of replaying the down as the rules state, the Rocks were backed up 10 yards and lost the down.
Stortz later said he was not informed why Rocky lost the down. Two plays later, the Rocks punted, giving Brooks the ball one last time.
"We allowed that to be a close game," said Chapman, who threw three touchdown passes to receiver Derrick Willies and another to Brandon Richardson. "We shouldn't have put that in anyone else's hands."
Both teams had more than 100 penalty yards, with Rocky being flagged 15 times for 132 yards.
"Either we're the most undisciplined team in the state or we're over-aggressive," Stortz said. "We haven't had penalties racked up like that in the first two weeks. As the season progresses, you usually minimize your penalties.
"I felt our kids were aggressive. I didn't see any cheap shots by our kids. I saw aggressive play. I'm not going to ask our kids to back down in any way or shape."
On this day, the Rocks never backed down.
"I'm extremely happy," Chapman said. "They definitely gave us a challenge, but we battled through it. We deserve to be 2-1."