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Mendota running back Tanner Porter (No. 28) looks for teammates to celebrate after scoring a touchdown on a 9-yard run in the first quarter of the Trojans’ 14-13 win Friday. NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
MENDOTA — The Mendota football team’s 14-point lead had evaporated to one point in the fourth quarter, and Rock Falls was on the 12-yard line with less than a minute on the clock to beat the home team in a heart breaker.
However, Mendota sophomore defensive back Ryan Reeder did the heartbreaking as his interception in the end zone with 44 seconds remaining locked up the Trojans’ 14-13 win in a Big Northern Conference West Division game.
“We had a switch, so we were running back because I was supposed to stay on (Rock Falls receiver Steven Armoska), but I saw him look back at the ball,” Reeder said. “I saw it go up in the air and I just tried to make the best play.
“When I realized I had it, I thought run, but I remembered I was in the end zone and all we had to do was run out the rest of the clock. I went crazy when the play was over because I knew we had won.”
Mendota (2-5, 1-3 BNC West) needed the interception because of a Trojan mistake.
With the one-point lead, three minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter and the ball on the Rockets’ 15-yard line, the victory was in the Trojans’ hands.
However, both sides of the field — players, coaches and fans — went crazy as a Mendota pitch was taken 63 yards the other way by the Rock Falls defense.
Reeder then officially put the game out of reached with the game-winning interception.
In the beginning, Mendota set the tempo of the game by running the ball down the Rockets’ throat.
There were very few Trojan pass attempts — only 10 in the contest — as the team had 49 carries for 169 yards.
The offensive scheme kept the Rockets (1-6, 0-5) away from the ball and earned them the first score of the game when senior Tanner Porter ran into the end zone on a 9-yard carry.
The touchdown ended a 14-play drive with five first downs. A missed PAT made the score 6-0.
After Rock Falls had what looked like a four-and-out extended because of a Mendota roughing the kicker penalty, the Trojans had to wait a little longer to create another long, time-consuming drive.
“I thought our defense did great,” Trojan coach Brock Sondgeroth said. “Coach (Jeff) Barrett and coach (Aaron) Sester did a great job with the defense getting them set up to know how to stop Rock Falls.
“We knew the onside kick was coming every time they kicked. They go for two mostly — today they didn’t. They kicked field goals, which is what won us the game since they missed one. That surprised me.”
The Trojans kept the ball for 13 plays on four first downs to place them on the Rockets’ 10-yard line.
However, Mendota junior James Buchanan was intercepted in the end zone for one of the Trojans’ four turnovers in the game — three fumbles and one interception. Reeder’s interception was the second of the game for the Trojans against the Rocket gunslinger Jacob Mammosser.
While Reeder’s pick stopped Rock Falls from scoring, senior defensive back Trae Blumhorst returned an interception 40 yards.
“His interception return sparked us in the second half,” Sondgeroth said. “Our kids were the most disciplined they have been all season on getting the other team to jump. The last few games, it has been us to jump.”
Blumhorst’s grab set up the Trojans’ rushing attack on their 44-yard line, in perfect position to pounce in the end zone once again.
Sophomore Wyatt Martinson had two big first down runs of 11 and 10 yards, while junior Jimmy Bruno pounded the middle for smaller gains.
After 12 plays, Bruno capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The missed kick was made up for when Porter ran in the two-point conversion to give the Trojans enough points to hold off the Rockets.
“We’re 2-5, but this kind of win at home makes everyone feel great,” Reeder said. “It’s a lot better seeing a better record in the year books when you’re going through them when you’re older. This will give us a lot of confidence going into next week.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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