The Rolla football team (3-3) made the trip up to Camdenton for an Ozark Conference matchup on Friday, Sept. 22. The Bulldogs struggled with the Camdenton rushing attack early, but made a stellar fourth quarter comeback to make things interesting. Unfortunately, Rolla ran out of time and the clock hit zero with Rolla three points shy of completing the comeback in a 45-42 loss.
Rolla started the scoring in the offensive shootout at the Lake. After a Bulldog punt, the Rolla defense made a big stop on fourth and one to regain possession with some stellar field position. After Josh Pritchett hit Blaize Klossner to convert a long fourth down attempt, the Bulldogs worked their way down to the five yard line. Rolla was called for holding on the following play, pushing them back to the 14, but Camdenton jumped offsides on third down, bringing Rolla back to the nine. Nine yards was close enough for Pritchett, as he rolled out to his right and scampered into the end zone to give Rolla a 7-0 lead.
After Rolla took the early lead, the Lakers punched right back. The Camdenton running game was nearly unstoppable on the drive, as a slew of backs ripped off big gain after big gain. Camdenton worked their way all the way down two yard line, where Todd Simpson leapt over his line on fourth and two to cross the goal line for a Laker touchdown. Rolla managed to get through the Camdenton front on the extra point to block the extra point, however, and they maintained their lead 7-6.
It looked like the offenses were going to continue to dominate when the Bulldogs took the field after the touchdown. Rolla had a few solid gains, but the Bulldogs were called for a personal foul after a run by Davis Buhr and Rolla was pulled back. On second and 11, Pritchett was sacked by Bo Shore for a seven yard loss. Rolala couldn't convert on third down and was forced to punt. It didn't take long for Camdenton to take advantage, as Gabe Kurtz snuck through some traffic at the line of scrimmage on his way to a 74 yard touchdown. Jacob Hill was able to convert for two and the Lakers led 14-7.
The Rolla offense was shut down again on the ensuing drive, forcing another Rolla punt. Camdenton then only needed two plays to go 67 yards for a touchdown, which came on a 35 yard run from Hill to push the Camdenton lead to 21-7. Rolla was able to get back into a bit of a rhythm on their next drive, but after a first down, they were called for a penalty and stuck with a first and 23. That didn't bother the Bulldogs though, as Buhr found himself wide open down the middle of the field. There wasn't a defender within 20 yards of the Rolla senior and he was able to cruise into the end zone for an 83 yard score, cutting the Camdenton lead to 21-14.
After that, Camdenton dominated the half. Rolla seemed to be on their way to forcing a turnover when they held the Lakers to a fourth and short on the 27, but Isaiah Lumley flipped a sweep out to Hill and the Laker running back took it 27 yards to the house to push their lead to 28-0. Rolla was stuffed on fourth and one on their next drive, which opened the door for Camdenton to work the ball down the field on their way to a one yard touchdown by Jay Griffin. The Lakers added a 35 yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the half and went into the half with a 38-14 lead.
After a lot of scoring in the opening half, both teams had a quiet third quarter. Camdenton elected to pass the ball a bit more in the third quarter, but Rolla wouldn't give them the big play. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs struggled to keep Pritchett on his feet, as the senior quarterback took several sacks in the quarter. The third came and went without a score, but it didn't take much time in the fourth for Rolla to find the spark they needed.
Pritchett and Buhr were a dynamic duo on Friday night and that picked up in the fourth quarter. First, Pritchett found his fellow senior for a 57 yard strike to bring the score to 38-20, but the Bulldogs couldn't convert for two. After a fourth down stop on defense, Pritchett found Buhr again. He tossed one up in the end zone and Buhr came back, reaching around a defender, to grab a 36 yard touchdown. The two point conversion was good to Klossner and Rolla closed the gap to 38-28 with 4:54 to play.
Rolla elected to kick the ball onside after the touchdown, but the kick didn't go 10 yards and the ball was given to the Lakers on the 44. Camdenton tried to put a kibosh on the Bulldog comeback, as Todd Simpson scored on the first play to stretch their lead back out to 45-28.
The Bulldogs didn't let the touchdown get to them and they came out firing on their next drive. They were called for a hold on the drive, but got some help from the Lakers. Andrew Butts did a little too much talking for Camdenton and the Lakers were handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Pritchett took advantage, as he found the right sideline and ran 20 yards for the touchdown, knocking down the pylon as he was hit on the goal line. Rolla was hit with a penalty on their two point attempt, but Pritchett still managed to roll out of the pocket to hit Klossner for the conversion. That brought the score to 45-36 with just 2:44 left in the game.
Rolla again kicked the ball onside, but Camdenton recovered. The Lakers were called for a personal foul on the recovery, before getting stopped on their first three plays and were forced to punt. Rolla was forced to burn all three of their timeouts on the series, so the clock would not be on their side for the remainder of the game.
After the Camdenton punt went out on the 40 yard line, Rolla had a bit of work to do. Pritchett couldn't complete his passes on the first two downs, but he managed to run for an eight yard gain on third down. With their backs against the wall, Rolla needed a big play on fourth down and they got one from Klossner. Pritchett hit Klossner on a swing pass and the junior was able to get the first down by a matter of inches. Klossner then caught another first down pass before snagging a six yard touchdown from Pritchett. The extra point was blocked, so Rolla trailed by three points, 45-42, with 24 seconds to play.
Rolla needed one more big play to complete the comeback, but it was a big play that wouldn't come. Pritchett kicked the ball onside, but the Lakers were able to recover. Isaiah Lumley just needed to drop to a knee on first down to seal a 45-42 win for Camdenton.
Despite the loss, Pritchett had another phenomenal performance for the Bulldogs. The senior quarterback threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 114 yards and two scores on the ground. Buhr led the team in receiving with a ridiculous 230 yards and three touchdowns on eight catches, while Blaize Klossner added another 67 yards and a touchdown.
"Great effort and will," said head coach Jon Franks of his team after the game. "We still have things to fix, but they're a good football team and we knew we had to play well the whole time...our kids had a lot to overcome tonight and I thought they did a great job of overcoming that adversity. I'm disappointed, the kids are disappointed, but it's one of those things where you played well enough to win, just didn't have enough time."
Camdenton head coach Jeff Shore was also very complimentary of the Bulldogs after the game.
"They're a good team. They should be 5-0 coming into this game, honestly, and they played another close one here," said the Camdenton head coach Offensively, they're dangerous."
Shore also had a lot of praise for Pritchett after his stellar performance.
"He had a pretty amazing touchdown run. He's a good quarterback, you see it on film. We didn't do as good of a job on him tonight as I'd like to tonight, to his credit," said coach Shore. "But he's a good player that's hard to bring down and it puts you in a little bit of a bind back there. Do you come up to stop him or do you stay back to stop the pass?"
Rolla really turned things on in the fourth quarter and coach Franks just saw his team block out the tough Homecoming environment around them.
"Just confidence and excitement," said coach Franks. "It's one of those things where they put away the environment and just getting into a groove and playing. And believing, so much of football is about belief in yourself and your teammates."
Rolla will look to get back into the win column when they host their own Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 29 with Glendale coming to town.