Bulldogs show offensive potential by setting single-game passing yards mark.
It was a loss; an expected loss to this season’s Ozark Conference favorite.
But, oh, did the Rolla High School football team make a statement in defeat Friday night at Lions Memorial Field.
The Bulldogs, who struggled mightily to put points on the board the past couple of seasons, displayed touchdown potential at any spot on the field using their new spread attack.
RHS set or flirted with a number of offensive records Friday, but it still wasn’t enough against the Lebanon Yellowjackets’ senior running back Elza Evans.
Evans, the Ozark Conference’s top ground-gainer last season, was too much for RHS Friday, rushing for 307 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair in the fourth period to break open a close game and give the Jackets a 48-31 season-opening victory.
First the Bulldog positives:
RHS used what head coach Willie Howard called after the game his “two-headed monster” at quarterback in juniors Kyle Morris and Zach Brown.
Morris was the returning starter at QB. But Brown, who has shown strong passing ability at the junior high and junior varsity level, quietly figured into the RHS plans this year.
“After the jamboree we knew we were going to play both,” Howard said. “It was just a matter of how to mix them in and use both.
“Morris is a much more controlled type kid where Zach is a kid where you call the play and sit back and watch him free-wheel. It’s kind of like watching Peyton Manning and Brett Favre at the same time.”
Actually, Howard’s hand was forced on how he mixed and matched his QBs on Friday, as Morris suffered a ankle sprain in the first half. He tried to play through the injury early in the second half, but eventually told his coach he couldn’t.
Enter Brown, who came off the bench to produce a monster game.
Brown connected on 17-of-28 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. The 302 yards were the second-most single-game passing yards by a QB in school history, next of Jamie Myers’ 321 in 1979.
And the combined 335 passing yards by Brown and Morris set a new RHS single-game team record.
The two teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense - 993. And Rolla’s 516 yards of total offense is the fifth-most single-game total in school history.
And junior wideout/running back Josh Leon also had one of the biggest receiving nights in Bulldog lore, catching five passes for 126 yards and two TDs. His 126 single-game yards receiving is tied for ninth in school history.
“One of the main things about it...17 points is not all that much if you fall behind,” Howard said of the spread offense. “I thought our kids played really well and really hard, especially when we got down by 17 (in the fourth quarter).”
Rolla was also forced to play most of the second half without starting center/defensive lineman Tyler Hribar. On a one-yard TD run by Evans at the 10:31 mark of the third period Hribar went down for a lengthy period of time before he was taken by stretcher off the field, into an ambulance and on to Phelps County Regional Medical Center.
Howard said Hribar suffered a strained muscle in his upper back and was released from the hospital later Friday night.
“You lose your center and starting quarterback and you really get worried,” Howard said. “But Zach did a great job and (junior backup center) Jorge Barrera did a great job of snapping the ball in the shotgun.”
Rolla struck first when senior running back Andy Satulla - who finished second in conference rushing behind Evans last season - broke away with a 62-yard TD run at the 4:01 mark of the first period.
Less than two minutes later Evans countered, breaking off a 69-yard TD run to tie the game.
In the final seconds of the first period Lebanon took its first lead when junior Adrian Palmer capped a 45-yard drive with a 12-yard TD run.
The Bulldogs tied it back up when Brown, on his first offensive series of the game, drove the Bulldogs 80 yards for a TD, scoring when he hit Satulla over the middle, who then sprinted past the Jacket secondary for a 44-yard TD reception.
Lebanon, picked to win the Ozark Conference championship in the Daily News’ preseason coaches poll, would take the lead for keeps in the second period when, on a fourth-and-three situation, junior running back Brandon Horsley took a counter handoff and went 10 yards for a TD.
RHS again answered, driving 73 yards on 13 plays before stalling out and converting on a 25-yard field goal from senior Landon Maynard.
The Bulldogs went into halftime down 21-17.
Lebanon junior Conner Hicks took the second-half opening kickoff 30 yards to the Bulldog 39 yardline, setting up Evans’ one-yard TD plunge on the play Hribar was injured on.
Hicks helped give the Jackets some much-needed breathing room when he picked off a Brown pass and returned it 12 yards to the RHS 12. Two plays later Horsley again scored on a counter play from seven yards out. Lebanon failed on a two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score 34-17.
But thanks to Leon, the Bulldogs wouldn’t got away. Leon got open behind the Jacket secondary and Brown hit him with a pass. Leon then got to the sidelines and was gone for a 67-yard TD reception.
Four plays later RHS junior free safety Keegan Chrisco intercepted a Jacket pass at the Rolla 23. In seven plays RHS got to the Lebanon 42 yardline. From there Brown faded back to pass, stepped up in the pocket to avoid a heavy Lebanon rush and fired a strike to Leon, who sprinted in for a 42-yard TD. Maynard’s boot brought RHS back to within three points, 34-31.
However, Evans took over in the fourth quarter, scoring both of Lebanon’s touchdowns - on runs of 54 and 13 yards - to allow the Jackets to finally put away the Bulldogs.
“He’s definitely a load,” Howard said of Evans. “They put two power backs in front of him; that’s three backs capable of going the distance at any time.”
The Bulldogs were certainly disappointed after the game, but they feel the era of the spread is going to pay off eventually.
“Our offensive kids especially were excited because of how much fun they had and how fast the game played,” Howard said. “The defensive kids were disappointed. But all in all the kids had a really good attitude.”
Satulla finished with 107 rushing yards and caught six passes for 105 yards. He and Leon combined for 231 receiving yards.
“Leon is a kid, every day in practice he does that,” Howard said. “He puts forth a lot of effort.”
After the game RHS two-way starting lineman Dalton Turner, while in the bleachers with his family, needed treatment for dehydration. He was taken by ambulance to PCRMC.
Howard lists Hribar and Turner as questionable for this Friday’s Ozark Conference game at Springfield against Kickapoo (7 p.m. kickoff) while Morris is listed as probable.
The box score:
First downs: RHS 20; Lebanon 22
Yds rushing: RHS 31 for 181; Lebanon 42 for 433
Yds passing: RHS 335; Lebanon 42
Total yards: RHS 516; Lebanon 477
Passing: RHS 22-39; Lebanon 3-10
Int. thrown: RHS 1; Lebanon 1
Fumbles lost: RHS 0; Lebanon 1
Penalties: RHS 11-80; Lebanon 6-60
Punting: RHS 5-27.4; Lebanon 3-44.7
The score by periods:
Rolla 7 10 14 0-31
Lebanon 14 7 13 14-48
The scoring plays:
Rolla: Satulla 62-yard run, Maynard kick (4:01).
Lebanon: Evans 69-yard run, Tiller kick (2:47).
Lebanon: Palmer 12-yard run, Tiller kick (:28).
Rolla: Satulla 44-yard pass from Brown, Maynard kick (10:39).
Lebanon: Horsley 10-yard run, Tiller kick (7:58).
Rolla: Maynard 25-yard field goal (2:41).
Lebanon: Evans 1-yard run, Tiller kick (10:31).
Lebanon: Horsley 7-yard run, conversion fails (9:28).
Rolla: Leon 67-yard pass from Brown, Maynard kick (8:01).
Rolla: Leon 42-yard pass from Brown, Maynard kick (4:36).
Lebanon: Evans 54-yard run, Tiller kick (4:53).
Lebanon: Evans 13-yard run, Tiller kick (1:59).
Rushing - Rolla: Satulla 19 for 107, Pearson 4 for 44, Brown 5 for 22, Morris 2 for 4, Clancy 1 for 4. Lebanon: Evans 26 for 307, Palmer 6 for 59, Groce 4 for 32, Horsley 3 for 23, Winfrey 3 for 12.
Passing - Rolla: Brown 17-28-302-1, Morris 5-11-33-0. Lebanon: Winfrey 3-10-44-1.
Pass Receiving - Rolla: Satulla 6 for 105, Copeland 6 for 34, Leon 5 for 126, Chrisco 3 for 37, Nash 2 for 33. Lebanon: Badde 2 for 35, Hicks 1 for 9.
Interceptions - Rolla: Chrisco 1 for 0. Lebanon: Hicks 1 for 23.
QB Sacks - Rolla: none. Lebanon: Mahan 1 for 7.
Fumble Recoveries - Rolla: Clancy 1 for 0. Lebanon: none.