Story by Matt Lofgren
Photos by NEOSPORTSPIX
Trailing by seven with two seconds left on the clock, Bay was on the move deep in Rocky River territory.
But the Rockets were stuffed by the Rocky River defense on the 3-yard line, allowing the Pirates to hold on to a 34-27 come-from-behind victory on Senior Night at Rocky River Stadium.
After trailing for most of the second half, Rocky River's Matt Lowry put the game on his shoulders and found a way to win. Taking advantage of a defensive stand deep in Pirate territory, Lowry gave Rocky River the lead on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Connors to gain a 34-27 advantage with 1:50 left in the game.
"It's been the same thing for us every week. Our kids don't quit," Rocky River head coach Rick Adams said. "We were up 13-0 and kind of fell into a lull there.
"Then we got down 27-19 and we needed a spark, and we got it."
With less than two minutes on the clock and no timeouts left, the Rockets' sophomore quarterback, John Koz, had the improbable task of going 55 yards to tie the game. After an incompletion to start the drive, Koz tossed what appeared to be the game ending play as River's Evan Nugent picked off the pass.
But both Nugent and Adams learned a valuable lesson upon taking the ball and returning it.
"Lesson learned here; when we intercept it, we've just got to fall down," Adams joked after Nugent coughed the ball up on the play, giving the Rockets another shot at a comeback.
For take two of a comeback, Bay now had to go 70 yards in 45 seconds to come back and tie the ball game up.
The Rockets got 67.
"There were a lot of great moments tonight," Bay head coach Tryan Gorius said.
"It wasn't one play that got us beat, it was five or six you add up on both sides. Ultimately we had a shot, and that's all you can ask for," he said.
Leaning on his defense to come up big, Adams said he had full faith in his players to make the stop with the game on the line.
"We've been waiting for the defense all year to step up, and they did. They came through," Adams said.
Friday night in Rocky River was truly a tale of two half for these cross town rivals. While Rocky River had control of the game in the first half on offense and defense, Bay retooled for a second half shootout.
Accumulating just 63 yards of total offense in the first half, the Rockets ripped off 265 yards of offense, led by sophomore quarterback John Koz's 193 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, in the second half to keep the game interesting.
Koz, who replaced injured star quarterback Jake Best, had a the game of his young career. He was a big difference-maker in this one by finding open receivers for big plays.
"It was a great game for him," Gorius said. "When you look back on it, it's growth. I'm looking at the growth of a sophomore. He's got a lot of football to be played, and I couldn't ask for anything better than that.
"I mean, he had no timeouts. It looked grim, but I was proud of him because he grew tonight," he said.
He even got the top play of Fox 8's Friday Night Touchdown on a perfectly thrown 28-yard touchdown strike to Will Wilson.
Koz's counterpart in maroon and white, Lowry, once again put up spectacular numbers. The agile runner and precision passer in him shined in the second half for 260 yards through the air and four touchdowns while adding 129 yards on the ground.
Lowry's best friend in the game was his big tight end Alex Theiling. At 6-foot-5, Theiling could be seen anywhere on the field, and Friday he was spotted in the end zone twice for a pair of big scores.
Catching 10 passes for 173 yards and the two scores, Theiling had the game Adams has been waiting all season long for.
"That's the player that he can be," Adams said. "I'm so happy for him going out as a senior with the last home game. It's an outstanding performance by Alex.
"That's something that we've been looking all year from him. He did a great job for us."
At the end of the game, the happiest player on the gridiron was none other than Lowry, who led the celebration after the game with his teammates.
"It was crazy," Lowry said. "No one gave up, even when we were down by two scores. We knew our offense would step up and we did."
(You can follow Matt Lofgren on Twitter @MLofgrenDKS. NEOSPORTSPIX can be found @BayLightStudio, and you can follow our website too @BeAFanatic.)