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.”
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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.