Deming’s 5 TD runs, Hook’s stop on 2-point conversion help Rochester to 2-0 start
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
KNOX — Alex Deming ran for 233 yards and five touchdowns, and Dylan Hook tackled Knox’s Jake Conroy on a two-point conversion attempt with 28 seconds left as the Rochester football team edged host Knox 48-46 at Community Field Friday.
Gavin McKee also had a 29-yard touchdown run for the Zebras, who improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2018. Payton Luhnow had three receptions for 76 yards.
Rochester scored six touchdowns on seven possessions, and they converted all six two-point conversion attempts. The Zebras had 423 yards of offense.
There were no turnovers in the game.
“We just learned that they’ve been listening to what we’ve been preaching, and that’s we’re never out of the fight,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said of his players.
Knox fell to 1-1. They have lost to Rochester each of the last two years by a combined total of seven points.
Knox’s Xzavier Roman had a 76-yard touchdown run, a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 21-yard touchdown run on a double reverse in the final 16 minutes of the game. His 21-yard run, which came on third-and-14 as he straddled the far sideline near the Rochester bench, cut the Rochester lead to two points.
On the two-point try to tie the game, quarterback Cohen Watson, who himself had 155 yards rushing, handed off to Conroy on a sweep to the right, but Hook infiltrated the blocking and tripped up Conroy short of the goal line.
Conroy, who is also Knox’s kicker, attempted an onside kick, but Rochester’s Aaron Swango fell on it at midfield. Swango, who is also Rochester’s quarterback, took a knee to end the game.
The 94 combined points were the most in a Rochester game since a 74-28 win over Southwood on Sept. 16, 2011.
Rochester faced a third-and-5 from their own 37 when Deming exploited a huge hole between right guard and right tackle on a toss play. He shook off one tackle and sprinted into the clear. Knox’s Rowen Jordan chased him down to about the 5-yard line, where Deming shed him and headed into the end zone with 6:13 left. Colton Ferverda followed with a two-point conversion run on a counter to make it 48-40.
“We didn’t expect that to bust there at the end, but it was a pleasant surprise, for sure,” Shaffer said.
Deming has run for 485 yards and seven touchdowns in two career games against Knox.
“I give it all to my o-line,” Deming said. “They’re the ones who make the holes and get me the yards.”
Knox was called for two holding penalties on the ensuing drive, but a Conroy 10-yard run on second-and-10 got the ball to the Rochester 17 after the first holding penalty, and Roman’s touchdown run came after the second holding penalty.
That’s when Hook, a junior in his first year as a cornerback, made a play in run support.
“The previous touchdown, they did the same play, so I kind of moved my alignment,” Hook said. “It was very nerve-wracking. And of course, the game was close. I just ran up and did what I was supposed to do. … I’m supposed to go outside and contain and pretty much just make a play.”
The game featured more running than most Olympic track meets.
Watson’s 66-yard run off the right side on a fourth-and-2 set up freshman Myles McLaughlin’s 1-yard touchdown run on the opening possession to give Knox an 8-0 lead.
Rochester answered with Deming’s 28-yard touchdown run off the left side with help from a seal block from tight end Alex Griggs.
Watson then ran 37 yards for a touchdown.
Then, Zebra sophomore Maddox Jewell ran the ensuing kickoff to the Knox 37, and a 30-yard pass from Swango to Luhnow set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Deming.
Conroy took an option pitch to the right for a 38-yard touchdown run to make it 24-16.
What followed was the only drive in which Rochester did not score. They got four first downs, but it ended when Brant Beck was stopped for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-2 from the Knox 3 on a perimeter run to the left with 1:44 left in the half.
But the Zebras got the ball back to start the second half and drove 73 yards in 13 plays. Deming had 35 yards rushing on the drive, including a 1-yard touchdown run one play after a diving 19-yard reception from Luhnow.
Rochester then made their own defensive stand, stopping Watson for only one yard on fourth-and-2 from their own 28.
On the second play of the following drive, McKee took a sweep around the left side, shook off a tackler and scored to give Rochester a 32-24 lead.
But Roman answered with a 76-yard touchdown run around the left perimeter as he straddled the left sideline and was gone.
Deming’s fourth touchdown run of the night, a 3-yarder on a backside run up the middle, gave Rochester the lead again. Rochester’s offensive line routinely pushed Knox several yards off the line of scrimmage to give Deming space.
“He was pretty good, but his offensive line was even better,” Shaffer said. “They did a real nice job paving the way for him on some different plays. We run kind of a double scheme up front. Guys did a really good job getting a push up front. They had nine, 10 guys in the box at different times, and the boys were able to execute.”
Roman then took the kickoff at his own 5 and shot up the middle and broke a tackle and zoomed away from the defense.
All along, each team kept going for two and converting.
The game was tied 40-40 with just over seven-and-a-half minutes left.
“It was on edge the entire time,” Deming said. “Back and forth, back and forth. And then on that very last two-point conversion, I’m in. That was a nailbiter.”
Rochester 48, Knox 46
Rochester 8 8 16 16 – 48
Knox 16 8 8 14 – 46
KNOX – Myles McLaughlin 1 run (Xzavier Roman run)
RHS – Alex Deming 28 run (Deming run)
KNOX – Cohen Watson 37 run (Jake Conroy run)
RHS – Deming 1 run (Payton Luhnow run)
KNOX – Conroy 38 run (Watson run)
RHS – Deming 1 run (Colton Ferverda run)
RHS – Gavin McKee 29 run (Ferverda run)
KNOX – Roman 76 run (Conroy run)
RHS – Deming 3 run (Deming run)
KNOX – Roman 95 kickoff return (McLaughlin run)
RHS – Deming 63 run (Ferverda run)
KNOX – Roman 21 run (run failed)
Dylan Hook Gavin McKee Rochester all-TRC center Austin Rogers