Kyle Turner’s eyes were fixated on his surroundings.
The scoreboard which showed West Lafayette trailing with less than four minutes to play and David Morrison, the Ball State-bound quarterback who was able to sling the ball all over the field on the Red Devils, were in sight.
“I knew we had to get the ball back,” said Turner, who moments earlier caught a 58-yard touchdown pass that cut Concordia’s lead to two. “There were four or so minutes left. He threw the ball up. I saw it sitting there and just went for it.”
Turner intercepted Morrison and West Lafayette followed with an 11-play, 55-yard drive that took all but the final 33 seconds off the clock in a 25-21 comeback victory over the Cadets at Straley Field, capping an incredible regional championship game.
The sixth-ranked Red Devils (12-1) advance to the north semistate to play at top-ranked Andrean (13-0), a 27-7 winner over Jimtown.
It was an emotional game that saw West Lafayette’s vaunted offense become stagnant and Concordia’s passing game flourish. Morrison threw for 301 yards and a pair of touchdowns to junior Jorden Kindig, who caught 10 passes for 152 yards.
It was turnovers that plagued Concordia in its quest for a third regional title and first since 2007. Morrison was picked off twice and fumbled twice on fourth-down plays.
“We love when they go for it on fourth down, that’s what you live for,” said WL senior defensive lineman Matt Nordland, who recovered a fumble on a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter.
Maurice Woodard finished off two long drives in the first quarter with touchdowns, then scored the game-winner after Parker Ronchetto kept the season alive with a 27-yard scramble on fourth-and-3 to get WL to the Concordia 24-yard line.
“I rolled out right and no one was open, and I looked back left and I saw a lot of open field,” Ronchetto said. “I was running downfield and I got a big block from Maurice Woodard there, and I was able to get out of bounds.”
Spencer Ronchetto, who also picked off Morrison near the goal line to end the first half, laid an impressive hit on the final kickoff that riled up West Lafayette’s already exuberant fans, but it came with a 15-yard personal foul penalty for hitting the return man with his helmet. That put the ball near midfield.
WL sophomore Nate Merriott sacked Morrison on second down, draining the clock down to five seconds remaining after Concordia spiked the ball. With one final play, Morrison dropped back and was engulfed by senior Jade Doty, who ensured his team would finish unbeaten at Straley Field his senior season.
“You’re there on your half of the field with very few seconds left and they know we have to pass,” Morrison said. “They’re pinning their ears back, they’re coming, so it’s just a tough situation.”
Ronchetto was just 3 of 9 passing before he hit Turner for the 58-yard score with 4:18 to go. But the Red Devils relied on Woodard’s legs and for the second week in a row, the senior running back took his share of punishing hits, — but he capped off the night with 179 yards on 40 carries and, more importantly, a regional title.
“Our kids had numerous chances in the fourth quarter and late in the third quarter to give up, and they never gave up,” WL coach Shane Fry said. “They were always confident. All they needed was the ball back. Our defense got us the ball back and we had no doubt.”