ROCHESTER HILLS — With exactly 71 seconds remaining, an annual rivalry contest looked destined for overtime.
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior wide receiver Nate Davis hauled in a 20-yard touchdown catch via a desperation heave on fourth down. Often thought of as a formality, all that was left to knot the scoreboard was the subsequent extra point.
Rochester High junior defensive back Drake Reid had other ideas, charging through the line to block the kick and send a capacity crowd home happy on homecoming.
“I came up right through the middle, right through the gap,” Reid said amidst a raucous postgame celebration. “It was the last play of the game, and I just wanted to make my team and city proud. I went all out, I wanted to give these seniors a win on their last homecoming so I gave it all I had.”
Rochester (3-5, 3-4 Oakland Activities Association White) coach Erik Vernon applauded Reid’s effort, admitting his club seemingly has a knack for disrupting point after attempts.
“We’ve now won three games in the last two years on blocked extra points,” Vernon recalled. “You just have to man up and go on it. This is big for our seniors and school. You always want to win on homecoming. It’s awesome to see the great school spirit we have here.”
The crosstown clash served as the league finale for both sides. Additionally, it served as rematch from last year’s regular-season finale, which saw Stoney Creek (3-5, 2-5 OAA White) spoil Rochester’s attempt at earning a playoff-clinching sixth win.
“This group really wanted this,” Vernon said. “They’ve fought so hard every week this year. The White is such a tough conference, and they just keep battling and they did a great job tonight. Rochester is an amazing community, and I love the parents, students and players. I’m very thankful for what they’ve given us, and I’m glad we got this one for them.”
Rochester senior kicker Luigi Camaj provided the only other points in the second half, hitting a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Stoney Creek senior kicker Michael Melaragni opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal following a Rochester fumble. The Falcons responded with a 13-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes of regulation, capping it with a 3-yard pass to junior wideout Ryan Noble.
On the next Falcons drive, Rochester pulled off a fake punt to continue a possession that saw junior tailback Gabe Szafran scamper across the goal line from 6 yards out. Davis hauled in a 58-yard score late in the first half to narrow Rochester’s lead to 14-10 at the halftime break.
“We had our chances in the first half but we got inside the 20 twice and only got three points,” Stoney Creek coach Bob Lantzy said. “We just missed out on some big plays. We knew it would be a tough place to come play. I thought they played a very good game, and I thought we did too. It was a very good night of football all around with a lot of big plays, and they came out on top.”
Both sides started backups under center. Stoney Creek sent out sophomore quarterback Peyton Youngblood in place of usual signal-caller Frank Potenza who suffered a knee injury earlier this season.
“(Youngblood) is only a 10th-grader but he did a great job for us tonight,” Lantzy said. “He made some great throws and missed a couple, but everybody does. He gave a really great effort.”
Senior quarterback Brent Burtraw went down with a broken foot for the Falcons last month. Vernon praised junior Owen Malinowski who took his place, saying he did a great job in the spotlight in only his third career start.
“I can’t say enough about (Malinowski), he did a really good job tonight,” Vernon said. “He was calm, cool and collected. The defense helped out too, this was the best they played all year. They manned up and made the stops when they needed to.”
Stoney Creek will look to rebound next week, facing another local rival. The Cougars host Rochester Adams (7-1 overall) at 7 p.m. Oct. 20.
“I know how physical and deep they are, we need to just get out there and make it a game,” Lantzy said. “When you can go through the OAA Red and only have a one-point loss, you’re a pretty good team. They will be a big challenge for us, but we’ll be ready.”
Rochester closes out the year on the road in an OAA Red/White crossover contest.
“We’ve talked a lot with our team, especially the seniors about how most people don’t get to end their high school career on a win,” Vernon said. “That’s what we’re going to try and do, and hopefully, we can take some momentum from this.”