BELLEVUE – Air Spitler?
The usual script finds Lucas pulverizing opponents on the ground behind 1,800-yard rusher Mason Galco, but it was the passing game that sparked coach Scott Spitler’s Cubs to a 44-35 victory over Tiffin Calvert in Friday night’s Division VII regional semifinal shootout at Bellevue High School.
Quarterback Rueben Luna scored three touchdowns, but it was his arm that did the most damage as the Cubs rallied from a 14-12 halftime deficit to improve to 11-1 and advance to within one win of the Final Four.
Playing from behind for the first 24 minutes, Lucas had a chance to take the lead at halftime, but Luna’s 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
That missed opportunity didn’t exactly kill the Cubs’ momentum. They scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter. Consecutive receptions of 20 yards by Jackson Hauger and 27 yards by Galco — who caught a deflection off a teammate’s hands —set up Luna’s one-yard keeper, giving Lucas its first lead at 18-14 with 9:06 left.
On their next possession, the Cubs capitalized on a 33-yard, back shoulder catch by Hauger against tight coverage, leading to a three-yard TD run by Luna and padding their lead to 24-14.
But Calvert got new life, thanks to a long pass on a fourth-and-long conversion, setting up a TD on the final play of the third quarter.
Corbin Kantner, on the receiving end of a three-yard pass from Drew Ritzler to pull Calvert within 24-21, then went high for a 29-yard grab to set up his 20-yard TD catch in the right corner of the end zone, giving the lead back to Calvert 28-24 with 10:07 left.
Ultimately, it was the Cubs’ tried-and-true running game that produced the go-ahead points as freshman Jeb Grover blasted 33 yards with 5:50 left to give the lead back to Lucas for good. Grover also was responsible for Lucas’ first TD on a six-yard TD catch.
Galco added what would prove to be the winning points, showing off the reflexes and footwork that has him flirting with a 2,000-yard season by picking off a pass and racing 55 yards untouched with 4:54 left.
To seal the victory, Lucas had to foil an onside kick attempt after Ritzler scored from the 1 with 1:40 left. Galco tacked on a 20-yard TD for good measure.
It was a wildly entertaining game that found the Cubs almost immediately playing catch-up. A 32-yard pass from Ritzler to Devin Stith set up Ritzler’s 20-yard scoring strike to Kantner with just 1:02 gone
The Senecas were on the move again on their second possession, but stalled at the Lucas 14. A turnover near midfield gave the ball right back to them, but things finally started to swing the Cubs’ way.
On the second snap after the Galco fumble, Hauger gave it right back to Lucas with his fifth interception of the season. The Cubs converted Hauger’s pick into a 6-yard TD pass from Luna to Grover in the right corner of the end zone.
Luna’s PAT kick was no good, but the Cubs had drawn within 7-6 on the second play of the second quarter.
Most noteworthy about that 65-yard drive was that the Cubs did most of their damage through the air. Highlights were a 15-yard catch by Hauger and a 26-yard catch by 6-foot-6 tight end Aaron Scott.
But the momentum changed hands quickly. Calvert answered with a 36-yard pass from Ritzler to Stith, making it 14-6.
Once again, the two teams traded turnovers. Luna’s pass on third-and-long from the Calvert 33 was picked off at the 3, but Bryson Combs picked off a deflected pass to set Lucas up at the 7. Luna rolled out from there and took it in himself. The subsequent two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Lucas had a chance to take a halftime lead, but Luna’s 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Stith.
So the 6-2 Stith, listed as a tight end/running back/linebacker, had a big hand in both of Calvert’s first half touchdowns and in denying the Cubs a lead at the break.