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Down 22-7, Central Catholic rallies to oust Zebras

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Rochester runs for 292 yards, but LCC’s Metzger throws 4 TD passes; Vance hurt


Sports Editor, RTC

Alex Deming

LAFAYETTE — Bobby Metzger threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning 82-yard touchdown pass to Ray Clayton with 6:43 left, to lead the Lafayette Central Catholic football team to a 28-22 win over visiting Rochester in a Class 2A, Sectional 34 semifinal Friday.

Central Catholic trailed 22-7 with 2:39 left in the first half but finished with 21 unanswered points. This marked the second straight year Rochester did not score in the second half of a sectional game against Central Catholic. Last year, they trailed 10-8 at halftime before eventually falling 24-8 in the final.

Alex Deming ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 12 Rochester, who finished 7-3. Brant Beck added 19 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown for a Zebra wing-T offense that gained 289 yards.

Colton Ferverda

Colton Ferverda added 51 yards from his left wingback spot, and quarterback Carson Paulik added a season-high 37 yards on the ground. Beck and Paulik each added a two-point conversion run.

This loss could leave a bitter taste. Rochester led 22-20 after three quarters, and they had not lost a game they led after three quarters since a 29-28 overtime loss to Maconaquah in 2020.

The Zebras were trying to reach back-to-back sectional finals, something they have not done since 1995-96.

Instead, somber coaches and players exchanged hugs after a postgame message from coach Ron Shaffer while a rain shower pelted the field. Rochester remains without a sectional title since 2000.

Rochester committed two turnovers

Dylan Hook

while Central Catholic had none; however, neither Rochester turnover led to points for the Knights.

Rochester had a 292-10 advantage in rushing yards, but it was not enough. Rochester had 37 offensive snaps in the second half as compared to Central Catholic’s 18, but they were outscored 15-0.

“They were pretty tough,” Shaffer said of the Knights’ defense. “They’re physical. They’re strong. Some penalties hurt us. We overcame some of them. We had too many zero gains or negative-yard plays where it put us behind the chains or off schedule, and it’s pretty hard for us to overcome that against a really good team.”

Rochester's Alex Deming (30) breaks free for a 56 yard touchdown in the first quarter of the sectional semi-final vs Lafayette Central Catholic on Friday night. (Photo by Paul Deming)

Central Catholic won their seventh straight game and improved to 8-3. They will travel to Seeger, a 20-16 winner over Lewis Cass, for the sectional final next Friday.

“Due to some undisciplined play, we were able to set Rochester up on some short fields, and they were able to pay that off,” Central Catholic coach Brian Nay said. “I just really think our resiliency as a group defensively … Rochester’s going to make their plays, and we knew that coming in. We knew that as much as possible. … It’s tough to really mimic the physical style of play that Rochester plays with in practice, so it’s going to take a few series to really be able to match that. Coach Shaffer does such a good job that we knew we were going to have to at least match that style.”

Rochester lost starting two-way lineman Xavier Vance to an apparent right knee injury with 7:26 left in the first quarter, and he did not return. It took two players to replace him: Rosswel Zeiger filled in for him at left tackle on offense, and Wes Lawson saw time at tackle on defense.

Central Catholic took over on downs with 7:28 left on their own 13. Metzger scrambled for five yards on first down. Then he hit a streaking Clayton down the right sideline, outracing safety Gavin Young and cornerback Paulik to the end zone for the touchdown to give the Knights a 26-22 lead.

Metzger then tossed a two-point conversion pass to Hudson Gutwein to complete the scoring.

Nay felt that Rochester knew when Central Catholic would try screen passes in the flat, so the long pass to Clayton was a fake screen.

“Maybe our signals aren’t as good as we thought they were, but they were able to pick up on the stuff we were putting in,” Nay said. “Obviously, we could tell by how they were yelling out the screen game. Why not give them a fake screen and see if they’ll bite? And we’ll throw one up the sideline. Fortunately for us, it was the game-winner.”

The ensuing kickoff, which Ferverda returned to the Rochester 39, was unusual in that the Central Catholic sideline thought Ferverda waved his right hand signaling for a fair catch. The officials threw a flag instead to cite Central Catholic for a sideline warning.

Paulik would keep the drive going on fourth-and-2 from the Rochester 48, but four plays later, a Deming surge over right guard would only net two yards on fourth-and-4.

Rochester was down to one timeout, and Central Catholic would melt the final 2:56 off the clock.

“That’s not their deal anyway,” Shaffer said when asked about Central Catholic’s paltry rushing total. “Enough plays were made for them, and Metzger was in the middle of all that.”

Already leading 22-13, Rochester used 16 plays to matriculate the ball from their own 35 to the Central Catholic 19 to start the second half. No play was longer than six yards, and it included a 4-yard run from Beck on fourth-and-4 in which he hurtled himself into the defense to move the chains.

Shaffer called timeout with 2:39 left in the quarter with the Zebras facing fourth-and-7. He decided to go for it instead of attempting a 36-yard field goal, but Paulik’s play-action pass to Ferverda fell incomplete out of bounds past the far sideline.

Central Catholic responded with a seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that Metzger finished with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Alex Hardebeck.

Thomas Henry added the extra point to cut the lead to 22-20.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Beck fumbled after a 4-yard run, and Central Catholic’s Brinn Robbins recovered the loose ball at the Knight 45.

The Zebras responded with their own defensive stand, stopping Meister on fourth-and-1 from the Rochester 46.

A holding penalty negated a 47-yard Ferverda run around the right perimeter, but undeterred, the Zebras gained three first downs on the drive and would get as far as the Central Catholic 15, but the Knights stopped Deming for a 1-yard loss.

Facing fourth-and-7, Shaffer again eschewed a 33-yard field goal attempt and decided to go for it, but a Ferverda off-tackle run netted only 4 yards, and Central Catholic took over.

Two plays later, they had the lead.

Besides starting on both the offensive and defensive lines, Vance also blocks on extra point and field goal attempts.

“I was really thinking about it hard,” Shaffer said of the two decisions to go for it instead of attempting field goals. “That was a discussion on our sideline. There’s a lot of dominoes that fall when X (Vance) gets hurt and a lot of holes to fill. We didn’t feel like we would have somebody in our protection for the field goal. Somebody would have had to have done it that hadn’t been playing all night, and we didn’t feel that was going to be fair to them or the team in that situation.”

The game started ominously for Rochester. Hardebeck returned the opening kickoff 72 yards with only Zakk Parks snagging Hardebeck by the ankles at the Zebra 25 preventing a touchdown.

Five plays later, Metzger threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Gutwein.

Rochester then scored on their first drive on a 56-yard touchdown run from Deming. He sprung loose off right guard and somersaulted in the end zone just as a chasing Suppinger dove at his ankles.

A Brant Beck two-point conversion run gave Rochester their first lead at 8-7.

Central Catholic went three-and-out on their next possession and faced fourth-and-7 from their own 37. They elected to punt. Clayton, who is the Knights’ star receiver, is also their punter. The snap went over his head and he tracked it down inside his own 5-yard-line and somehow got off a 5-yard punt with Zebras in pursuit.

One of those in pursuit was Vance, who laid on the ground in pain near the goal line.

Shorthanded on the line but benefitting from a short field, Rochester drove 41 yards in eight plays. The big play was an 11-yard Ferverda run, and a Central Catholic facemask penalty moved the ball to the Central Catholic 9.

Deming rammed it in off right guard from the 2-yard-line two plays later. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Rochester led 14-7.

Central Catholic punted on their next two possessions, which sandwiched an interception from Central Catholic’s Isaac Suppinger on Paulik.

But a 24-yard Dylan Hook punt return got the ball to the Rochester 39. Four plays into the drive, Rochester tried a gadget play with Ferverda attempting a pass on third-and-16 from their own 33. The pass intended for Hook fell incomplete, but Central Catholic was called for pass interference. Instead of third-and-16, it was third-and-1.

Brant Beck followed with runs of 7 and 21 yards, and Paulik gained 18 on a keeper. Beck would eventually hammer it in from the 1 on fourth-and-goal, and Paulik’s two-point conversion made it 22-7.

“Coach Shaffer is so disciplined in how they move the football down the field,” Nay said.

Central Catholic answered right back. They converted a third-and-17 on a 19-yard connection between Metzger and Mason Meister. On the next play, Metzger, moving to his left, hit Clayton in stride for 45 yards, and a facemask penalty tacked on to the end of the play moved the ball to the Zebra 11.

Metzger followed with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Clayton in the back of the end zone, but Hook flew in and blocked Henry’s extra point try.

That preserved a two-possession lead for the Zebras at halftime.

Lafayette Central Catholic 28, Rochester 22

Rochester 14 8 0 0 – 22

Central Catholic 7 6 7 8 – 28

First quarter

LCC – Hudson Gutwein 5 pass from Bobby Metzger (Thomas Henry kick)

RHS – Alex Deming 56 run (Brant Beck run)

RHS – Deming 2 run (run failed)

Second quarter

RHS – Brant Beck 1 run (Carson Paulik run)

LCC – Ray Clayton 11 pass from Metzger (kick blocked)

Third quarter

LCC – Alex Hardebeck 31 pass from Metzger (Henry kick)

Fourth quarter

LCC – Clayton 82 pass from Metzger (Gutwein pass from Metzger)

Top Left: Colton Ferverda and Brady Beck out in front for Brant Beck in Friday's Sectional Semi-Final at Lafayette Central Catholic (Photo by Paul Deming)

Top Right: Colton Ferverda makes the tackle with help coming from teammate Wesley Meadows (Photo by Paul Deming)

Bottom Left: Colton Ferverda looks for a running lane in Friday's Semi Final game (Photo by Paul Deming)

Bottom Right: QB Carson Paulik with the run vs LCC. (Photo by Paul Deming)

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