The Rolla football team (3-2) hosted Waynesville for an Ozark Conference matchup on Friday, Sept. 15. The Bulldogs dominated the first half, but took their foot off the gas at halftime and let Waynesville back into the game. Josh Pritchett saved the Rolla win with a long touchdown run in the final minutes to hold off Waynesville 41-34.
Rolla go started quickly on Friday night with a pair of first quarter touchdowns. First Pritchett hit Tristen O'Neal on a 33-yard strike to take a 7-0 lead before the Bulldogs forced and recovered a fumble to get the ball back on their side of the field. After the fumble, Davis Buhr took over. Buhr was electric in the first half, spinning out of tackles with reckless abandon. He span out of a pair of would be tackles on his way to a 22-yard touchdown to extend the lead. Muluken Pritchett missed the PAT, but the Rolla lead still stood at 13-0.
Waynesville responded before the first quarter expired when Brad Drehle found David Adams Jr. down the sideline for a 53-yard score with nine seconds left in the opening quarter. Waynesville was then able to tie the game in the second with a Drehle run.
After the pair of Waynesville touchdowns, Rolla took the half over. Buhr found the end zone for the second time mid-way through the quarter, before the momentum fully went into Rolla's favor on the ensuing kickoff. The Bulldogs elected to squib the ball on the next kickoff and Ahmed Boubacar raced downfield to scoop up the ball and take possession right back. Pritchett threw an interception on the ensuing drive, but he made up for it after that. He ran two touchdowns in before the end of the half and the Bulldogs went into halftime with a 34-13.
Rolla went into the half with a little too much confidence and it showed early in the second half. The only big play of the third quarter for Rolla was an interception by Trey Quick early in the quarter. After that, they looked flat. Waynesville took advantage of a sloppy Rolla team with one touchdown in the third when Drehle hit Adams Jr. for a five yard score, but they wouldn't stop there.
The fourth quarter started with Rolla holding onto a 34-19 lead, but that lead wouldn't last. Drehle ran one in to tighten that deficit to 34-27 before eliminating it later in the quarter. Rolla forced Waynesville into a fourth down situation, but Drehle found Sheen Butler-Lawson on a screen pass and the sophomore running back carried it 47-yards for the game-tying touchdown.
The game-tying score was a bit of a wakeup call for Rolla and they kicked things into gear. With just over two minutes left, Pritchett dropped back to pass, but couldn't find an open receiver. Issac Stormes opened things up for Prichett to run with a great block in the backfield and he was off. Blaize Klossner then came up with a clutch block as he saw his quarterback break down the sideline and Pritchett carried the ball 53 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
"I'm just running at that point and once I get into the end zone I just turned around and hoped there were no flags behind me," said Pritchett after the game. "It was a great block by Stormes to get me out of the pocket in the beginning and then Blaize down the field to get me into the end zone."
There was still a bit of time left on the clock, but the Rolla defense held strong. Waynesville had a fourth down play to try to keep the game alive, but Klossner swatted away a pass on the goal-line to seal the 41-34 Rolla victory. While they pulled out the win, Pritchett knows his team needed to have a better mentality to open the second half.
"In the first half we came out ready to play and compete. We went out and blocked our butts off and just played," said Pritchett. "In the second half, we had a little bit of an edge to us, thinking that we were better. We didn't come out and compete at all and we should've done that better."
Head coach Jon Franks echoed that sentiment.
"You just have to continue to focus, continue to pay respect to your opponent and understand that they want to win too," said Franks after the game. "People aren't just going to give up. We've gotta learn that and overcome that. We took our foot off the gas and had some fun, joking around. It's a learning opportunity. Fortunately, we got a win to learn from instead of learning from a loss."
Rolla had a great night on the ground despite a sluggish second half. On top of throwing for 235 yards and a touchdown, Pritchett ran for 147 and three scores. Buhr added 100 yards on 17 carries and a pair of tochdowns. Blaize Klossner also chipped in 21 tough yards on five carries to go along with 94 receiving yards. Jake Grooms added 61 receiving yards, Buhr had another 42 through the air and O'Neal had a 33-yard catch for a touchdown.
Rolla will go back on the road after the home victory when they make the trip up to Camdenton on Friday, Sept. 22.