Grandview Heights High School football coach Jason Peters had a heart-to-heart talk with his quarterback at halftime.
The Bobcats trailed by three points and their 1,200-yard running back was sidelined with a knee injury. Peters told Oliver Rouch that it was time for him to carry the team in the second half.
Rouch did just that, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown and completing a crucial third-and-long pass to set up the winning score in a 20-17 victory over visiting Liberty Union on Friday, Oct. 28.
The Bobcats clinched the MSL-Cardinal Division title and likely secured a home playoff game.
“I went up to Oliver and told him that his shoulders just got a whole lot bigger because he had to carry us the rest of the way,” Peters said. “He was getting hit and wouldn’t go down. We danced with the lady who brought us here and that turned out pretty well for us.”
The Bobcats finished unbeaten in the MSL-Cardinal at 7-0 for their first league title since 2005 and improved to 10-0 for the first time in program history. The last undefeated team for Grandview was 1955 when it played a nine-game schedule.
But the game didn’t start well for the Bobcats, who trailed 10-0 with 3 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first quarter thanks to a 37-yard touchdown run by Josh Makuch and a 33-yard field goal by Dan McCord.
“For some reason, we start slow sometimes and need that wake-up call,” Rouch said. “We didn’t really worry when we got down because we were used to it and knew we would come back.”
Grandview quickly answered McCord’s field goal when senior Jason Franks raced 61 yards for a touchdown 16 seconds later. Dakota Williams added the extra point as the Bobcats trailed 10-7.
Franks had 95 yards on eight carries before injuring a knee on the first play of the second quarter.
“When Jason went down, none of us put our heads down,” Rouch said. “We’re a team and we knew that even though we lost a great player with 1,200 yards (rushing) like Jason, we had players who would step up. Look at Andy Nocar. He came in and ran for (49) yards with a (9-yard) touchdown. We’re all a team.”
Rouch had 92 rushing yards in the second half on 16 carries, including a 4-yard run on a fourth-and-4 at the Liberty Union 27-yard line on the opening drive of the third quarter. The 13-play, 66-yard drive ended with Nocar’s 9-yard run and took 6:40 off the clock for a 14-10 lead.
“We thought they would go to (Rouch) when (Franks) went down,” said Liberty Union coach Dan Johnson, whose team finished 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the league. “He’s a great player and he does a great job. We would hit him and he would still keep picking up yards.”
Makuch finished with 223 yards rushing on 24 carries, but 181 of those yards came in the first half. He scored on a 14-yard run with 8:26 to play to give the Lions a 17-14 lead.
But Rouch led his team on a nine-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by his 7-yard keeper with 3:49 to play. Williams’ extra-point attempt hit the left upright but did not go through for a 20-17 edge. Rouch completed a 15-yard pass to Payton Jones to the Liberty Union 39-yard line on a third-and-11 play to keep the drive going.
“Our defense shut them down,” said Peters, whose team limited Liberty Union to five plays in the second quarter and three carries for 1 yard. “We made some changes with a five-man front and had the linebackers helping out to catch (Makuch) at the line. We did a good job after the first couple of drives.”
The Lions were backed up to their own 35 on a fourth-and-11 play when Carter Jump hit quarterback Nick Bauer, causing the pass to fall short and ending their final drive.
“I was lined up and knew I could get around the guard to the quarterback,” Jump said. “I was able to get to him as he was passing the ball.”
The Bobcats rushed for 333 yards on 49 carries. The Lions ran 34 times for 228 yards.
LIBERTY UNION 10 0 0 7 -- 17
GRANDVIEW 7 0 7 6 -- 20
LU--J. Makuch 37 run (McCord kick)
LU--McCord 33 FG
G--Franks 61 run (Williams kick)
G--Nocar 9 run (Williams kick)
LU--J. Makuch 14 run (McCord kick)
G--Rouch 7 run (kick failed)