There were cheers and tears, hugs and high fives.
It was a win of significant emotion, and one that may have cemented a legend.
Rickards, on quarterback Charlie Kelly’s two-point conversion in triple overtime, defeated Lincoln, 43-42, Friday night at Gene Cox Stadium in heart-stopping fashion.
Down 15 points in the second half, Kelly staged an epic comeback with Houdini-like escapes amidst debilitating leg cramps, leading the Raiders (5-0) to their first victory over the Trojans in 23 years.
“Before we came out, we watched a video from the 70’s where Rickards came back and won, 25-24,” Kelly said. “We wanted to show our coaches that we wanted to come out and be just like them, and maybe even better.”
Lincoln quarterback Darius Harvey ran and threw for a score in the first half, but the Trojans (2-2) missed both extra points. A Brian Crews 35-yard field goal before half and Harvey’s third quarter touchdown pass to Joshua Deckerhoff built a 22-7 lead.
Then Kelly went to work, scrambling when no one was open. He juked pass rushers, line backers and secondary to the tune of 139 yards, 94 of which came in the second half. His legs kept cramping, even forcing him out for a whole series.
“My legs, they were dead, they were shot,” Kelly said. “That last play, I just had to give it all I got. At the end, I got in the endzone and they locked up again.”
But to get to overtime, Kelly had to hit Stephen Denmark on a 13-yard touchdown strike and Rickards had to block Crews’ 46-yard field goal with 1:40 left in the game.
Kelly pulled off an amazing run from deep in his backfield– nearly being sacked by three defenders but escaping for a 24-yard gain. That set-up his eluding a would-be sacker to roll out and find Kalin Riles for a 22-yard touchdown with 55 seconds left. Kelly ran in the conversion to tie the game and send the crowd into its first frenzy of the night.
“It’s amazing, man,” said Rickards running back Deion Hogan. “You never know what he’s gonna do. There’s something so special about Charlie Kelly. He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever played with in my life. I’ll never forget this memory, man.”
Harvey scored first for Lincoln in the first OT, but Kelly answered with a wheel route to Riles on third down at the 12. Rickards had to call a timeout before the play because Kelly could barely stand and needed to be stretched out.
Malcom Penny opened the second OT with a 5-yard touchdown run, but the extra point was blocked. Harvey answered with another keeper for a score. Lincoln, with a chance to win, missed its third extra point of the night.
The huge Rickards’ crowd couldn’t believe its luck.
“We make our extra points it’s not even an issue, not even a problem,” Trojans coach Yusuf Shakir said. “There’s other things– we’ve got to convert on third down, gotta get them off the field. It’s a whole team loss. Take your hats off to Rickards, they did a good job.”
Travis Hearns (150 yards rushing) scored immediately on a 10-yard run for Lincoln, the extra point went in, but Penny scored his third touchdown of the night on a carry from 10 yards out for Rickards.
There was no hesitation to go for two and the win this time. And there was little debate over who would be the one to do it.
Kelly escaped a pass rush one more time, ran right and dove from three-yards away. Would he get in? It was close with the crush of Trojans defenders meeting him at the goalline.
But this was his night to not be denied. Not this close.
“It was one of the scariest feelings in the world,” said Rickards linebacker Malik Slater, watching from the sideline. “At the same time, coach always tells us to have faith in the little stuff. I had faith in the offense. In my mind, I was praying the whole time. The boys did it.”
The excitement didn’t stop. The band kept playing. Wide receiver Devonte Harris ran a flag around the field. Fans, players, coaches, administrators slapped each other, embraced each other and consumed the incredulous feeling coming over them.
The whispers coming off tongues could be heard at every turn– Charlie, Charlie, Charlie . . .
“Charlie, you just can’t describe him,” said Hogan. “He’s not human, not human, not human, he’s not human.”