There are really no words to explain just how epic Friday night’s Division I quarterfinal game between No. 1 Rummel and No. 8 St. Augustine was at Joe Yenni Stadium.
There was one tie with four lead changes, one of which proved to be the game-winning score when senior receiver Ivory Wilright IV reeled in an 11-yard dart from junior quarterback Kyle Wickersham with just 22 seconds left to end an 11-play, 57-yard drive that took just 1 minute and 38 seconds off the clock.
Senior Patrick Vanderbrook’s ensuing extra point gave Rummel a 35-34 lead, and the defense held over the last 20 seconds to avoid what would have been a massive upset in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs.
“We just called the right play at the right time,” began Wilright IV, who ended the night with a game-high 101 yards receiving on four catches. “I’m just thankful for our o-line blocking and our quarterback rolling out and keeping his eyes up to be able to make a good throw.”
“That actually wasn’t really our play call,” added a bloodied Wickersham sporting a bandage around his head fit for someone who’d just been in a major car accident. “We were looking to our right side but got some pressure from the right, and this guy (Wilright IV) did a great job of cutting like we do in the scramble drill — we work on that all the time.
“He came wide open and I thank the o-line,” Wickersham said. “I must have sat back there for five seconds going back and forth. They did a great job tonight and we’re just happy to get the win and move on.”
The Raiders (11-0) were on the ropes after St. Augustine (6-6) scored four of the game’s previous five touchdowns, the last of which was a 2-yard run by running back Mahmood Bailey to put the Purple Knights on top 34-28 with 9:03 left in the game.
The senior had a huge night scoring three touchdowns and a two-point conversion on 22 carries that resulted in 120 yards on the ground. Bailey also had the final touchdown of a wild third quarter that saw the two teams combine for 34 points, 20 of which were scored by St. Aug as they erased a 21-8 early third-quarter deficit.
Rummel looked like it was ready to take control of the game when Wilright IV broke free for a huge 62-yard catch-and-run on the second play of the second half, which soon led to Wickersham’s first touchdown toss of the night on a 7-yard completion to junior receiver Tyler Cook with 9:14 to go in the third.
Rummel senior defensive back Sean Grimes then came up with the Raiders’ second interception of the game on a ball deep down field, but the momentum was about to shift in the Purple Knight’s favor.
Division I’s top seed was forced to punt from inside its own 20, and St. Aug senior linebacker Jabaz Myles came screaming around the edge for a big block. Junior defensive end Byron Turner scooped up the loose ball just outside the 10-yard line and returned it to the 1.
Bailey scored on the next play before also running in the two-point conversion to trim Rummel’s advantage to 21-16 with 6:57 left in the quarter.
“We played our hearts out and played until the clock hit 0:00,” Bailey said. “We all left it out on the field and you can see the aftermath.”
St. Aug’s run was just getting started as a Rummel 3-and-out coupled with a 24-yard punt gave them a short, 41-yard field to work with.
They quickly capitalized with a 4-play scoring drive that ended with a beautiful 26-yard pass over the middle from Kendell Sampson Jr. to Jaheim Walters, which was their second scoring connection of the night. The following extra point was no good, but the Purple Knights still held their first lead of the contest up 22-21 with 2:55 remaining until the start of the fourth.
Rummel is undefeated for a reason, though, and they turned to arguably their top playmaker in Vanderbilt defensive back commitment Donovan Kaufman, who was about to make his presence felt on offense.
The senior looked to be bottled up near the right sideline for a short run, but somehow popped free racing down the sideline for a spectacular 62-yard touchdown run to give the lead right back to the Raiders just 25 seconds after the Purple Knights took their first lead.
“I just had to step up,” Kaufman said. “We needed a play and we had to make it happen. I’m not trying to go home without a ring. That’s it. That’s my mindset.”
Not to be outdone, though, it didn’t take St. Aug long to answer as they felt the pressure down, 28-22.
Senior receiver Josh White answered the bell this time with a sweet juke after a short catch that allowed him to break free for a 40-yard pickup on the second play of the drive. Back-to-back runs by Sampson Jr. covered 19 and 8 yards, then Bailey sauntered into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown knotting the score at 28-28 with 16.2 seconds left in the third following a failed two-point conversion.
The Purple Knights put up numbers against Rummel’s vaunted defense like no one else this season. They racked up a staggering 369 yards of offense while putting up 14 more points than the Raiders’ previous season-high of 20 to John Curtis in overtime.
St. Aug struck for 14 plays of 10 yards or more while averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 38 totes between five players. Sampson Jr. only completed 10 of his 23 passes, but averaged 17.9 yards per completion in an incredible effort by the Purple Knights as a whole.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t come out with the victory but I’m so proud of my guys,” said St. Aug interim head coach Kenneth Dorsey Jr. “They came out and fought hard and this (Rummel) team is so good. They’re the No. 1 team in the state right now in my opinion.
“They fought until the end and it’s kudos to them for getting the job done,” Dorsey Jr. “I just feel bad for our seniors because they weren’t able to get the goal accomplished.”
Dorsey Jr. went on to say how the game will serve as a lesson for the team’s younger players going into next year, and the same can be said for Rummel as they head into the semifinals next week.
The Raiders will take on another Catholic League foe in No. 4 Brother Martin for the second time this season, and they handled the first matchup in Week 6 relatively easy with a 30-0 win. That won’t be the focus, though, throughout the week as Rummel feels they have a ton of corrections to make after surviving against a strong St. Aug squad.
“It’s good to come out on the winning end but mentally it was stressful,” Raiders head coach Nick Monica said. “Defensively, we messed up a lot of simple things that we just haven’t done all year. It’s very frustrating, but at the end of the day our offense did a very good job with the two-minute drill finding a way to get it done.”
“We can do better, I didn’t like this at all,” said a candid Kaufman. “It was terrible on our end on defense but the offense stepped up and did their thing. But we’ll be prepared for the next game for sure.”
St. Augustine: 369 yards of total offense (190 rushing, 179 passing)
Rummel: 325 yards of total offense (188 rushing, 137 passing)
Rushing: Mahmood Bailey, 22-120, 3 TDs; Kendell Sampson Jr., 9-59; Justin Doyle, 4-8; Semaj Payton, 1-3.
Receiving: Jaheim Walters, 3-59, 2 TDs; Josh White, 2-51; Joseph Miller, 3-26; August Banks Jr., 1-25; Khi Mathieu, 1-8.
Passing: Kendell Sampson Jr., 10-23, 179 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
Rushing: Logan Diggs, 16-89, 1 TD; Donovan Kaufman, 3-78, 1 TD; Kyle Wickersham, 7-15; Jaelen Sturgis, 4-4, 1 TD; Logan Bertucci, 1-3; Koy Moore, 1-(-1).
Receiving: Ivory Wilright, 4-101, 1 TD; Koy Moore, 1-15; Tyler Cook, 1-7; Keith Robertson, 1-7; Logan Bertucci, 1-7; Logan Diggs, 5-(-3).
Passing: Kyle Wickersham, 14-23, 137 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.
Rummel — Jalen Sturgis 1 run (Patrick Vanderbrook kick), 6:21, 0-7.
Rummel — Logan Diggs 32 run (Vanderbrook kick), 4:08, 0-14.
St. Augustine — Jaheim Walters 25 pass from Kendell Sampson Jr. (Justin Doyle run), 7:43, 8-14.
Rummel — Tyler Cook 7 pass from Kyle Wickersham (Vanderbrook kick), 9:14, 8-21.
St. Augustine — Mahmood Bailey 1 run (Bailey run), 6:57, 16-21.
St. Augustine — Walters 26 pass from Sampson Jr. (kick failed), 2:55, 22-21.
Rummel — Donovan Kaufman 62 run (Vanderbrook kick), 2:30, 22-28.
St. Augustine — Bailey 2 run (pass failed), 16.2, 28-28.
St. Augustine — Bailey 2 run (kick failed), 9:03, 34-28.
Rummel — Ivory Wilright IV 11 pass from Wickersham (Vanderbrook kick), 0:22, 34-35.
NEXT UP: No. 1 Rummel will take on No. 4 Brother Martin in the Division I semifinals in a game that will likely be played Friday at Joe Yenni Stadium. The Crusaders dominated No. 5 Scotlandville, 46-13, Friday night at Tad Gormley Stadium.