Connor Mendelson kicked a 23-yard field goal with 58 seconds remaining to lift fifth-ranked Kell, which had let a 30-7 third-quarter lead slip away, to a 33-30 victory over No. 8 Rome in the teams’ Region 7-AAAAA opener Friday in Marietta.
Kell took possession for its game-winning drive at its 34-yard line with four and a half minutes to play and went 59 yards in seven plays. Until that possession, the Longhorns had managed just one first down and 17 total yards in the half. Quarterback John Lampley completed a key third-down pass of 12 yards and had a 25 yard-run that moved the ball to the Rome 9.
“We kinda went to sleep in the second half,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “A lot of that is due to Rome. Their defense was just played great in the second half. I think we only had 23 yards rushing in the first half, and I challenged our guys that we were going to have to run the ball better or we were not going to win the game, and that almost came to be true. On that last drive, we had a couple of guys make some plays.”
Rome (1-2, 0-1) trailed 30-7 with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter before it began its comeback. The Wolves scored on three consecutive possessions and made two two-point conversions to pull even with 4:44 remaining. Tyrish Martin had a 27-yard touchdown reception from Knox Cadum, and Jamious Griffin scored on a 16-yard reception and an 11-yard run. Kadum ran in both two-point conversions.
Kell (2-1, 1-0) used its defense and special teams to build the big first-half lead. Josh Blancato returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to tie the game after Rome took an early 7-0 lead. The Longhorns also got points from Kendall Bailey’s 31-yard interception return, a safety when Rome mishandled a snap in the end zone, and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Lampley to Michael Luckie that was set up by Noah Woghiren’s interception.
Rome scored on its first drive, taking possession after a short punt and moving 42 yards on five plays for a 7-0 lead with 8:12 to play in the first quarter. Griffin went the final 2 yards for the touchdown, taking the snap out of the Wildcat formation.
The lead didn’t last long. Blancato’s touchdown return of the ensuing kickoff sparked Kell’s 30-0 run over the remainder of the first half.
Rome finished with a 417-204 advantage in total offense. Kadum was 17-for-26 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also was the team’s leading rusher with 93 yards on 19 carries. Griffin rushed for 91 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Lampley was15-for-21 passing for 129 yards and rushed for 60 yards on 12 carries.
Rome – 7-0-7-16 – 30
Kell – 21-9-0-3 – 33
R – Jamious Griffin 2 run (Emanual Gonzalez kick), 8:12
K – Josh Blancato 94 kickoff return (Connor Mendelson kick), 7:59
K – Michael Luckie 29 pass from John Lampley (Mendelson kick), 2:52
K – Kendall Bailey 31 interception return (Mendelson kick), 0:42
K – Jared Hill 23 pass from Lampley (Mendelson kick), 9:21
K – Safety (quarterback tackled in end zone), 8:33
R – Tyrish Martin 27 pass from Knox Kadum (Gonzalez kick), 3:55
R – Griffin 16 pass from Kadum (Kadum run), 10:03
R – Griffin 11 run (Kadum run), 4:44
K – Mendelson 23 field goal, 0:58
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