MENDOTA – Trailing by a point in the final moments with his team desperately needing someone to make a play, Rock Falls’ Roman Luevano made it.
Luevano grabbed Mendota quarterback Jake Buchanan’s pitch out of midair and rumbled 58 yards to the Trojans’ 22 with 1:38 to play. But, the Rockets could not cash in, as an interception in the end zone sealed Mendota’s 14-13 Big Northern West victory Friday night.
“I just wanted to get down the field and help my team win the game,” said an emotional Luevano, a 5-foot-7, 215-pound senior who just could not outrun the Trojans. “I knew [the pitch] was coming. I anticipated it and tried to make the best out of the play, but I was hoping to score.”
Luevano had a hard time digesting the loss.
“It’s hard. It’s the worst feeling ever,” he said.
After Luevano’s big play, a 14-yard pass from Jacob Mammosser to Austin Babcock put the ball at the Trojans’ 8. A 4-yard loss and an incompletion made it third-and-goal from the 12.
Mammosser then lofted a pass into the right, back corner of the end zone for receiver Steven Armoska. But, Mendota’s Ryan Reeder picked it off with just 38 seconds remaining.
“We came out and played terrible,” said Mammosser, who was 6-for-24 for 87 yards with an interception. “I played extremely awful. We went out there thinking we would win. They put eight guys in the box and basically said, ‘Throw the ball,’ and I just couldn’t deliver. Our defense was outstanding. They played like a bunch of mad men.”
Down 14-0, Rock Falls (1-6, 0-5) battled back. First, Alex Leaf’s sensational 60-yard TD run that saw him break several tackles along the way and Dustin Huycke’s point after made it 14-7 with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
After forcing Mendota (2-5, 1-3) to go three-and-out, the Rockets marched 65 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Brendon LeBarron started the drive with a 19-yard run. Later, Mammosser hit Babcock for 32 yards to the Trojans’ 3.
Two plays later, LeBarron went in from 2 yards out. The tying extra point was blocked, and Rock Falls trailed 14-13 with 9:06 to play.
Star of the game: Wyatt Martinson, Mendota, 104 rushing
Key performers: Alex Leaf, Rock Falls, 87 total yards, 60-yard TD run; Brendon LeBarron, Rock Falls, 78 rushing, TD
Up next: Burlington Central at Rock Falls, 7 p.m. Friday