GRANGER TWP. — The words “Duo Right, Brown T Throwback” will live forever in the hearts of Jake Rogers and Jack McGinty.
Heck, that phrase will probably long be remembered by all 51 varsity football players for Highland after Friday night.
In a game where it looked like the last team with the ball was going to win, the last team with the ball did in a 45-43 non-league thriller by the Hornets over North Royalton.
Facing second-and-goal at the 4-yard line with 7 seconds left, McGinty ran a naked bootleg to his right, stopped and lobbed a perfect ball to the left corner of the end zone to Rogers, who caught it with three inches between him and the end line as time expired.
“It’s everything,” McGinty said. “We knew we had to come out and get it done and that last play, there was nothing but confidence in my head. We practice this. We’re there. We’re in the spot to do it and we got it done.”
It wasn’t as easy as McGinty made it sound.
Potential Big Ten recruit and North Royalton quarterback Joe Marousek scored what looked like the go-ahead score from 6 yards for the Bears (2-1) with 1:10 remaining.
Wary of Rogers, who already had returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown, North Royalton kicked the ball out of bounds. The Hornets (2-1) made the Bears re-kick, and Tyler Savron returned it 18 yards to the North Royalton 40 with 1:06 remaining.
Highland pushed to the 11 in 52 seconds but faced fourth-and-3 with 14 seconds remaining. McGinty (9-for-18, 105 yards, 2 TDs) found Alex Jaworski for a 7-yard gain, clocked the ball and ran the play that could very well define this season for Highland.
“This one shows if we get down, we won’t quit,” Rogers said. “We could have easily given up. They had the ball inside the 40 like five times, but we came back and won. We showed our toughness.
“It just shows our determination. We didn’t play well last week (in a 24-7 loss) against Medina. We all admit it. To show our toughness and to rally back was amazing.”
The game was every bit the fireworks that it looked like in the score. While Marousek didn’t have a fantastic game by his standards with his arm — he was 10-for-25 for 121 and three TDs — he was the calming force with 52 yards rushing.
When he wasn’t getting it done, Simon Antonio (19 carries, 170 yards, 2 TDs; 5 catches, 43 yards, 2 TDs) was the man for the Bears.
But much like he did last season en route to a Division II second-team All-Ohio berth, Rogers (26 carries, 251 yards rushing) was the man of the second, man of the minute and man of the hour.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder opened the scoring, closed the scoring and did a little bit of everything in between, including a 34-yard touchdown run, 62-yard TD scamper, the 83-yard kickoff return and 4-yard reception.
Throw in a two-point conversion catch and Rogers was every bit the player everyone expected.
“Words can’t describe him,” Hornets coach Mike Gibbons said. “The kid is amazing. I can’t say enough about him. I’m completely speechless. He’s a warrior.
“Everyone sees him go out there tonight and do that, but not everyone sees him like I do in the weight room every day busting his butt, every day in practice not taking a play off and being a leader by example. That’s the lesson right there. If you’re hungry like he is, it doesn’t matter how big you are. He has the heart of a lion.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
Highland 45, North Royalton 43
NORTH ROYALTON 8 14 14 7 — 43
HIGHLAND 14 10 7 14 — 45
H — Jake Rogers 34 run (Logan Spittle kick), 10:36.
H — Bryce Profitt 69 pass from Jack McGinty (Spittle kick), 4:04.
N — Simon Antonio 1 run (Antonio run), 2:29.
N — Antonio 22 pass from Joey Marousek (James Osborne kick), 10:47.
H — Rogers 62 run (Spittle kick), 10:00.
N — Riley Knurek 37 pass from Marousek (Osborne kick), 0:20.
N — Antonio 4 pass from Marousek (Osborne kick), 9:11.
H — Rogers 83 kickoff return (Spittle kick), 8:47.
N — Antonio 7 run (Osborne kick), 5:05.
H — McGinty 1 run (Rogers pass from McGinty), 7:17.
N — Marousek 6 run (Osborne kick), 1:10.
H — Rogers 4 pass from McGinty, 0:00.