GREENWOOD VILLAGE – When neither team was able to get a stop in the Class 5A state playoff game between No. 19 Rock Canyon and No. 14 Smoky Hill, kicker Brake Sanger held his nerve.
Junior scored a game-winning field goal with six seconds to give the Jaguars their first postseason win 52–49 in program history, and set up a round of 16 meeting with the third-seeded legend.
“I passed out when (Smokey Hill) called a timeout,” Sanger said. “I knew I had to knock it down. I took my regular move, came back and got it done. … The first playoff win in school history means a lot because it’s ahead from here.”
The teams combined for five points to score 49—all late, including two two-point conversions by Smokey Hill. However, second-year Jaguars head coach Kevin Meyer believed his offense could escalate to one last drive to win the game.
“These guys came together as a team, we had confidence in them,” Meyer said. “We did our job, and when we slipped a bit in the first half, in the second half we came back and played as a team.”
Smokey Hill started strong and took an early lead on an 11-play, 65-yard drive when the Buffaloes converted on fourth and short to survive the drive through senior running back Marvin Jones III. After four plays, junior quarterback Tylick Bowers found his go-to wide receiver, senior Anthony Harris, Jr., in the back corner of the end zone on a 27-yard reception to give Smokey Hill a 6-0 lead. Harris only had one point on Friday night, but once he realized the size advantage, that turned into a quick one.
The Jaguars responded with a long drive of their own, as they went for nine plays, 88 yards, and senior back Aidan Duda second and goal from eight yards to give RC a 7-6 lead. This score will be maintained after the opening frame.
Both teams were to punt on their first possession of the second, but on their second possession of Rock Canyon, quarterback Cole Dreyfus was stopped by outside linebacker Logan Trujillo at Jaguars territory. After six plays, Bowers saw a seam in the defence, and found the 6-foot-5, 192-pound Harris again on a 36-yard strike behind the end zone, making it 12-7.
The Buffaloes’ defense kept Rock Canyon’s powerful back, Duda, at least yards from the remaining half, while he also played his part on special teams. The Jaguars’ punt team delivered a blow and the buffalo recovered at the 11-yard line. After four plays, Bowers snatched it from the goal line to give his team a 20–7 lead at halftime.
Rock Canyon needed it as, in four plays, Duda scored his second touchdown of the night on a 52-yard run, moving his feet past two defenders and going through the third way towards the end. Area. After good extra points, the Jaguars went one point, 20–14, in the quarter with 10:22.
On Buffalo’s first possession of the half, Bowers was hit hard at third down and stumbled. Duda pushed the Jaguars over the goal-line, but Dreyfus scored from a yard to give the Jaguars a 21–20 lead. But the buffaloes responded immediately. On third and long, Bowers found Harris to make 26-21 on an 84-yard catch-and-run for his third TD.
The final score of the quarter went to the Jaguars, as Deandre Horn scored from 14 yards to make it 28–26.
The fourth quarter got off to a crazy start, as Bowers faltered, and after two plays, captain Croix Burney scored from a few yards to make it 35–26.
On the ensuing possession, Harris had a reaction, of course, with his fourth score, when he jumped to snag a 31-yard reception, reducing it to 35–33, taking a little over eight minutes. There was time left.
Bernie scored his second TD in the following drive to make 42–33 in two possessions.
Troydale Dixon Jr. scored two late scores, sandwiched around a horn that gave Rock Canyon a 49–42 lead.
The Buffaloes pummeled down and found Dixon to draw within two on a 54-yard score. Harris then leveled at 49 on the ensuing two-point conversion with 1:36 remaining.
“I knew I had to step up my game because it was the playoffs,” Harris said. “The way we fought, and our quarterback, Tylick, he stepped up to an almost impossible goal. He proved himself by coming in and coming in, making no difference to the university until this year.
After a massive offensive, and a regular season that saw the Buffs hang out with many of their 5A Centenary League rivals, Harris said he believes Smoky Hill is headed in the right direction.
“Tonight and the way we played in the league was a huge step forward,” he said. “We proved we can play in the best conference in the state, and if we can do that, in the years that follow, we can prove we can do something big.”
The Jaguars went to the 1-yard line after the tying score, setting up a short kick from Sanger.
The Buffaloes had one last chance and tried to go out of bounds but were unable to complete the last gasp attempt.
With a high-flying offense and program-defining first move, Meyer, a state champion coach himself with a 4A school in Idaho in 2018, believes the Jaguars will be dangerous next week and beyond could.
“Whether you win by one, or 100, that’s how you get into the playoffs, and we’re on the way.”