The intensity of the moment, the magnitude of it, was written all over the face of a man who looked like he just got out of the shower.
Rossview football coach Ron Lambert was emotional and emphatic about who he felt was the best running back in District 10-AAA — a league littered with outstanding runners.
But it was the Hawks’ quarterback that led to an emotional night as Rossview rallied in the closing seconds to clip Kenwood 38-36 in a thrilling district football game at Knights Stadium Friday.
Rossview (3-2, 1-2) faced a fourth down play with 25 seconds left and standing at Kenwood’s 6 yard line trailing 36-31 to the Knights. Kenwood snuffed out the Hawks’ pass play as quarterback Charles Talleyrand looked for an open receiver. Failing to find one, Talleyrand moved around the pocket then took off, heading left and cutting up a field peppered with Kenwood defenders. But the young QB found the end zone with 12.3 seconds left and after the point-after, Rossview held a 38-36 advantage.
Kenwood’s last-ditched effort resulted in only a 12-yard run by Knights quarterback Malcolm Perry who, himself, tried to buy time in the pocket by scrambling around.
The victory is the first district win for Rossview in two years as both teams racked up staggering rushing yards.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lambert said. “These kids deserve this. They played absolutely to the end. They did everything we asked and then some and I don’t care what anyone else has to say, we have the best running back in the district, hands down. He is the best in our league and I know there are some great ones.”
Lambert was talking about Isaiah Johnson, who rushed for 204 yards on 21 carries. The Hawks gained 305 rushing yards and 394 total but it was Johnson’s hard-nosed style and crucial yards that kept Rossview drives alive throughout the night.
Kenwood had three players rush for more than 100 yards and finished with 484 rushing yards and 503 yards total. But the Knights fall to 0-3 in district and are now 1-4 overall and look like a longshot for a playoff berth.
“It was a gritty game by both teams,” Kenwood coach Kevin Goltra said. “We were right there at the end and Rossview just gutted out that last drive.”
The Hawks final drive was the necessary game-winner because Kenwood, who scored 28 points in the first two quarters but was held scoreless in the third quarter, finall punched through with a Sam Lipsey 1-yard plunge with 6:27 left in the game. That gave the Knights a 36-31 lead.
Rossview capped its game-winning drive on the 15th play. It converted a fourth down and 10 when Talleyrand hit Aaron Merriweather for a 15-yard pass play at Kenwood’s 11 yard line and the Hawks thought it had initially won the game when Johnson ran in from six yards out with 39 seconds left. But a holding penalty was called backing the Hawks to Kenwood 14. Johnson ran for seven yards on the next play before Talleyrand’s heroics to ice the game for Rossview.
“It was a total team effort because our defense had to make adjustments in the second half to slow down Kenwood and they did that,” Lambert said. “We just put our best defensive player on the Kenwood tight end side and told him ‘we’re going to win or lose with you’. And he and our defense stepped up.”
Kenwood had 325 rushing yards in the first half but managed just 159 in the second half because Rossview ate up the clock with long, time-consuming drives. Still, Perry managed 112 rushing yards and Maleek Hall had 130 on the ground. Michael Sutherland, whose 71 yard run in the first half helped him eclipse 100 yards by halftime, finished with 159 yards.
Kenwood held a 28-21 halftime lead but Rossview’s Justin Pierre scored from 9 yards out for the only score of the third quarter, and the Hawks managed to get a 27-yard field goal from Christian Kubas to start the fourth quarter to take a 31-28 lead.
The game was full of penalties but Kenwood had its only turnover when Perry fumbled with 1:40 left in the third.
“It’s a tough loss and we’ve got to get better defensively,” Goltra said. “I thought we fixed our offensive issues after last week’s Dickson (County) loss so that was a positive. But we need to win games now.”