As the second-string running back behind 5A All-Idaho senior Jake Roper, Damian McKenney isn’t accustomed to getting the ball on a big fourth down.
But when Roper left midway through the fourth quarter with a right knee injury, it was McKenney’s turn to step into the spotlight for the Rocky Mountain High football team.
Lined up in the wildcat on fourth-and-4 from the Rocky Mountain 17-yard line with 2:39 to play, McKenney drew the Eagle defense offsides, leading to a Rocky Mountain touchdown and a 32-23 victory Friday night at Brighton Stadium.
“It was acting, making them believe that we got a play that’s going to be better than theirs,” McKenney said. “They get pumped themselves and just overdo it and jump offsides.”
The penalty gave Rocky Mountain the ball on the Mustangs’ 12-yard line and forced Eagle to use its last timeout to try and slow the clock trailing 25-23.
While Roper had carried Rocky’s offense most of the game with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns, it was senior quarterback Christian Blaser who finished off the winning drive with a 4-yard run with 1:39 left in the game.
“It was some little things in the second half regarding some penalties and a couple missed assignments,” Eagle coach Paul Peterson said. “In a ballgame like this, the margin of error is so thin, and we crossed that line just a couple times at very inopportune times.”
Eagle led 23-18 at halftime and had a chance to take back the lead midway though the fourth quarter when senior linebacker Braden Clifford recovered a Rocky fumble on the Grizzlies’ 44-yard line.
But two plays later, senior middle linebacker Levi Irwin intercepted Eagle sophomore quarterback Devan Bridgewater, setting up Rocky’s game-preserving drive.
“I liked our grit. I thought our kids played together. When the adversity hit, our kids played through it,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “It’s a huge, huge rivalry with those guys. Great team. Great coaches. I thought our kids responded and didn’t go overboard. We had some things that went bad, but then our kids came back and responded, and I am really proud of them.”
Criner said Roper’s status for next week’s 5A Southern Idaho Confererence Pod A opener at home against Centennial is unclear along with fullback Blake McKernan and defensive back Spencer Sawas, who were also injured in the game.
“We have a lot of good guys and depth, so I felt comfortable,” Blaser said of the injuries. “Roper is a big part of our offense, but we’ve got people to fill his spot and we have good coaches to make good calls.”
NOTE: Rocky Mountain junior kicker Jonah Dalmas broke his own school record with a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. His previous record was 42 yards.