Pinning a defense back at its own 3-yard line and giving its opponent four chances to punch it in typically doesn’t end well.
But the Roncalli defense seemed to thrive on that kind of pressure Friday night when it mattered most.
The Rebels stuffed Bishop Chatard on four straight runs from inside the 3-yard line in the final minutes of the game to preserve a 21-14 win.
Chatard senior running back Gabe Coleman had two runs that resulted in the Trojans making it to the 1-yard line with about a minute to play. But the Rebels again stuffed Coleman on third down at the 1, and then stopped quarterback Billy Dury on fourth down to clinch the win and take over with 36 seconds remaining.
The win improved Class 4A No. 3 Roncalli to 1-0 in the Circle City Conference and 3-0 overall, while Class 3A second-ranked Chatard dropped to 1-1 in league play and 1-2 overall.
“Our guys stepped up and played with a lot of pride and emotion and fought to the end,” said Roncalli coach Bruce Scifres, whose team beat the Trojans for the first time in the regular season since 2010. “The goal-line stand was amazing. Our guys are big and physical and played with pride and fought.”
Chatard scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter and led 14-7 at halftime. But the Rebels tied the score midway through the third quarter on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Derek O’Connor to Luke Smock.
It was a field position game after that, and the Rebels took advantage of a 17-yard punt that put the ball on the Trojans’ 26 with 7:37 to play in the game.
After five straight running plays from O’Connor, Roncalli faced third down at the 4-yard line. Scifres dug into his bag of tricks and had O’Connor flip the ball behind him to backup quarterback Conner Gore, who found O’Connor streaking alone toward the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Scifres designed the trick play — called “Jackie” after his wife — a few years ago but hadn’t used it in the past couple of years.
“A few years ago my wife asked why I never named a play after her,” Scifres said. “I told her football is a masculine game, but she scribbled out the name of the play and that’s how it came to be. It’s the first time we’ve run it in a while, and it paid off.”
But Chatard still had life. The Trojans took over at the 20 with 5:11 to play. Coleman had a few big runs and Dury had a couple of key completions to lead their team all the way to the 3 before the Rebels ended Chatard’s chances at the goal line.
“We couldn’t get a stop when we needed to, and our offense couldn’t pound it in when they had to,” Chatard coach Vince Lorenzano said. “We made some mistakes at the goal line; some bone-headed mistakes. That’s on me as a coach.”
Coleman sparkled in the first half, contributing to both second-quarter scores.
Chatard’s first touchdown came on a 6-yard run from Coleman with 11:04 to play in the half. Coleman also set up the Trojans’ second TD on a 30-yard run that put Chatard at the 3-yard line.
Coleman came up limping after the play and didn’t return in the half. He sat out the third quarter before returning in the fourth. He finished with 157 yards on 29 carries.
With Coleman out, Dury hooked up with senior tight end Matthew Annee on a 5-yard score to make it 14-7 with 47 seconds to play in the first half.
“It hurt us a little but wasn’t key to the game,” Lorenzano said of Coleman sitting. “We had field position issues. They had the ball pretty much the whole third quarter.”
Roncalli senior running back Kenny Gillum finished with 87 yards on 14 carries, while O’Connor rushed for 69 yards and was efficient passing, finishing 8-of-14 for 117 yards, a touchdown throw and a touchdown catch.
“I think to win a championship, offense, defense and special teams all have to step up,” Scifres said. “We didn’t play a perfect game — we had a lot of penalties (106 yards) — but we’ll eradicate the mental mistakes. But our guys found a way to step up tonight, and that’s a real tribute to our kids.”