With his offense sputtering at rain-soaked Hoyt Shumate Stadium on Friday night, Hillcrest High School coach John Beckham called in a trick play to ignite the offense.
So, on a fourth-and-9 from the Hillcrest 36 and his team trailing city rival Glendale in the third quarter, up-back Sheldon Moeller took the snap on a punt and ran through the line.
Fifty-two yards later, Moeller had gained the first down and all the momentum. It was all Hillcrest from there as the Hornets scored the game’s final 20 points to earn a 26-13 victory in Ozark Conference action.
“We’ve had it in the playbook for years and years,” Moeller said. “According to how they line up is how we are going to run it.
“After that, everyone’s spirits just kind of went up, and all the momentum went to us after that.”
Indeed, Matt Rush ran the ball 12 yards for a touchdown on the very next play for the Hornets (2-0, 2-0). Quarterback Jonah Hill ran in the two-point conversion to give Hillcrest a 14-13 lead.
“It wasn’t ideal, that (down and distance) and on that side of the field; that’s not really when you want to run a fake punt,” Beckham said. “But at the same time, that’s when they least expect it as well. Up to that point, we were struggling and our team was flat.
“We needed something to turn the key, and I thought that might do it. And it worked.”
Glendale senior quarterback Will Rogers gave a strong effort throughout, finishing with 151 of his team’s 176 yards of total offense.
“Will Rogers is a warrior,” Glendale coach Tyler Overstreet said. “He played his butt off. He had a gash on his left hand in the first quarter, and he tapes it up and gets going. My hat’s off to that kid.”
Rogers connected with DeShawn Clancy for a 7-yard score in the third to give the Falcons (0-2, 0-2) a 13-6 lead.
But the momentum swung decisively after Moeller’s fake-punt conversion.
“That was a heck of a call by coach Beckham, a gutsy call,” Overstreet said. “It took momentum from us.”
Overstreet was pleased with his team cleaning up turnovers from Week 1’s 50-7 thrashing at the hands of Joplin, but the Falcons committed 10 penalties on Friday. Offensive lineman Max Oeser was ejected after a personal foul after a play in the second half.
“It was just stupid penalties,” Overstreet said. “That’s another thing we have to fix. But I really truly believe once we get the mental mistakes fixed that we’re going to have a pretty good team to put on the field.”
Dominick Rodriguez led the defensive effort with two sacks and a handful of tackles for the defending OC champions, as the Hornets earned their 12th straight conference victory.
Hillcrest’s Darnell Green-Beckham played about seven plays, his second action of the season, but did not have the ball thrown his way. The junior wide receiver had not played since his freshman year after being diagnosed with leukemia in February 2011.
Hillcrest plays next Friday at Joplin, while Glendale will look for its first victory against West Plains in the Falcons’ home opener.