By Nate Thompson
Reeths-Puffer senior running back Theo Stevenson scored on a one-yard plunge up the middle with five seconds remaining, giving Reeths-Puffer a heart-racing 39-34 victory.
The Rockets stormed the sidelines after the win and celebrated by singing their fight song with helmets in the air while they were swarmed by the student section.
Reeths-Puffer improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the O-K Black Conference, and secured its first victory over Mona Shores since 2013.
The Sailors, after a season-opening blowout victory, have lost three in a row.
“This feels so good,” Stevenson said moments after the victory. “(Beating Mona Shores) means a lot. It means a lot to the program, it means a lot to the community. Anyone who comes out and supports us, we play for them.”
Mona Shores trailed 33-27 when the game was delayed for a half hour by lightning with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter.
The Sailors looked fresh following the delay, running just five plays to take their first lead of the game. Quarterback Tristan Robbins dove into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown, putting the Sailors up 34-33 with 9:54 left on the clock.
Robbins was tremendous in the second half, passing for 108 yards and a score and picking up 37 more yards on quarterback keepers.
The Sailors looked like they had the victory sewed up when reserve defensive back Matt Martin made a diving interception of a Rocket pass with 2:10 remaining.
But Mona Shores fumbled two plays later, giving the Rockets new hope.
Reeths-Puffer senior quarterback Blake Ross was cool under pressure in the deciding drive. He completed three huge passes – including a 20-yarder to Stevenson, which left the ball at the Sailor 5-yard line with 26 seconds to play.
Stevenson ran up the middle for four more yards, and Ross frantically spiked the ball with just five seconds left.
The only question left for the Rockets was to kick a field goal or go for broke, but Reeths-Puffer Coach Kyle Jewett said there was no debate.
“Kicking it was discussed, but our kicker was injured on Mona Shores’ last defensive series,” Jewett said. “So at that point, we had no kicker. So it was touchdown or broke.”
“Our coach believes in us,” Stevenson added. “There was no talk about kicking it.”
Behind a great push by the offensive line, Stevenson scored easily off right guard, putting the Rockets up 39-34 with 3.8 seconds left. Mona Shores’ last chance was a Hail Mary heave by Robbins, but it was easily knocked to the turf, ending the thriller.
While Stevenson stole the show in the closing minute, teammate Nate McCrary was a human highlight film in the first half.
The senior ran the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown, and later turned a swing pass behind the line of scrimmage into a 69-yard score giving the Rockets a 20-13 advantage in the second quarter. He finished the game with four catches for 88 yards.
“If he isn’t a Division 1 player, I don’t know who is,” Jewett said of McCrary.
Reeths-Puffer cashed in on a Sailor fumble with 4:11 left in the first half and quickly scored on a 1-yard Stevenson plunge to make it 27-13. Mona Shores cut the deficit to 27-20 at halftime when Marcus Marcus Collins scored with just 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
Both teams turned in impressive, lengthy scoring drives in the third quarter.
Mona Shores struck first when Robbins lofted a perfect play action 35-yard pass to Keyshawn Summerville, tying the game at 27-27. But the Rockets responded with a 13-play drive that ended with Stevenson powering through the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard touchdown, giving the Rockets a 33-27 edge.
That led to the dramatic finish.
Stevenson led the Rockets’ ground attack with 73 yards on 22 carries.
“We’re building things here the old-fashioned way,” Jewett said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we believe we’re in a position now to compete for league titles and championships.”
That exactly how Stevenson sees it.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had (at Reeths-Puffer),” he said. “But there’s plenty more to go.”