WACO — Heath Schiller didn’t want his career with the Rogers Eagles to end as a spectator, riding a stationary bike with a leg injury.
If this was his final game, the senior quarterback was going to go down fighting.
“It was such a close game,” Schiller said. “And my senior year, I knew I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines knowing we were going to lose.”
Schiller didn’t play for the first 45-plus minutes but entered in crunch time to throw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Minor with 31 seconds remaining, lifting Rogers to a 36-33 win over the Buffalo Bison in a Class 3A Division II bi-district game Friday night at Mac Peoples Stadium.
“I knew it was going to be a good play as soon as Coach (Charlie) Roten called it,” Schiller said. “I saw him open out there and just had to get it out there. I thought I under threw him a bit.”
The game-winner came on third-and-6. Schiller rolled to his right as did most of his teammates, drawing the Bison with them. Minor cut back to the left and stood wide open in the end zone when Schiller looked back and threw.
The final TD sent Rogers into the area round to face Jacksboro at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in Burleson.
It was a dramatic finish for the Eagles (10-1,) who had led the majority of the game but trailed 33-29 with 2:19 left after the Bison took their only lead of the night on a 40-yard touchdown run by Jamual Randle.
Rogers started its final possession on its 40. Schiller, who injured his leg in last week’s regular-season finale, convinced his coach he was going in.
“He talked me into it,” Roten said. “I wasn’t going to tell him no. He’s a senior. He wanted to go. He deserved to go. So if we were going to go out, it was going to be with Heath on the field.”
Schiller’s first pass was overthrown toward Jacob Glasgow, but the QB then orchestrated a 12-play drive in which he completed four passes for 35 yards and ran the ball twice.
“I was hurting, but I really didn’t feel it because the adrenaline was so high,” Schiller said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
His backup, sophomore Riley Dolgener, started the game and helped the Eagles take 14-0 halftime lead. He finished 3-of-3 passing for 35 yards and a touchdown to Minor.
“I was nervous when I got in the game,” Dolgener said. “But once I got through that first drive, all the butterflies went away.”
Dolgener’s burden was lessened by some big runs by Christian Riley — who finished with 194 yards on 24 carries — and Minor, who had 116 yards on 11 carries.
The Bison (8-3), who got past midfield just once in the first half, made a game of it after intermission. They got a big break when Randle intercepted a halfback pass by Jordan Riley, the Eagles’ fifth turnover of the night, while trailing 29-27 late in the fourth quarter. Randle scored from 40 yards out on the fourth play of the ensuing drive, setting up the finish for Schiller.
“We played really well the first half,” Roten said. “Defense played great and offense was moving the ball, but turnovers killed us. We pride ourselves on ball security so that was disappointing. We should have been up at least two more scores. We have to fix that if we expect to keep winning.”
ROGERS 36, BUFFALO 33
Buffalo 0 0 20 13 — 33
Rogers 0 14 8 14 — 36
Rog — Christian Riley 1 run (Julian Lashbrook kick)
Rog — Joshua Minor 11 pass from Riley Dolgener (Lashbrook kick)
Buf — James Phillips 39 run (Fransico Saldana kick)
Rog — Riley 9 run (run good)
Buf — Kyle Harrison 67 pass from Brett Hoffman (Saldana kick)
Buf — Eric Breshears 1 run (kick failed)
Rog — Minor 10 run (Lashbrook kick)
Buf — Breshears 2 run (Saldana kick)
Buf — Jamaul Randle 40 run (run failed)
Rog — Minor 8 pass from Heath Schiller (Lashbrook kick)
First downs 18 25
Rushes-yards 38-310 48-401
Passing yards 194 70
Comp.-Att.-Int. 9-15-2 7-10-1
Punts-average 4-31.2 1-41.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-4
Penalties-yards 7-55 8-70
RUSHING — Buffalo: Hoffman 18-173, Phillips 16-94, Randle 1-40, Breshears 1-3; Rogers: C.Riley 22-194, Minor 11-116, Dolgener 6-52, Jordan Riley 8-43, Schiller 2-6.
PASSING — Buffalo: Hoffman 9-15-2-194; Rogers: Dolgener 3-3-0-35, Schiller 4-6-0-35, J.Riley-0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING — Buffalo: Hagen Helmcamp 2-81, Breshears 2- 80, Randle 3-33; Rogers: Brady Sisneroz 3-32, Minor 2-19, Jacob Glasgow 2-19.