ROGERS — The Rogers Eagles entered the final week of the regular season on a tear, unbeaten and with a share of the District 8-3A-II title already in hand.
Rogers’ push for an undefeated campaign came to an end Friday night, and the Eagles had to settle for a share of the league crown after a 27-21 loss to the Clifton Cubs in the regular-season finale at Merk Field.
“We made too many mistakes, too many mistakes and not enough plays,” Rogers coach Charlie Roten said.
The outcome created a three-way tie for the district title between Rogers (9-1, 3-1), Clifton (7-3, 3-1) and Lexington (3-7, 3-1), and it dropped Rogers into the league’s third playoff slot based on the point-system tiebreaker.
The Eagles are now scheduled to face Buffalo in the bi-district round next Friday at Waco Connally.
The big question for Rogers is the status of starting quarterback Heath Schiller, who was the victim of a roughing the passer penalty and injured his leg on the Eagles’ final possession of the night.
“Like I told the guys, we are 9-1. A lot of people would kill for that,” Roten said. “We just have to regroup, check on Heath. It doesn’t look good right now, but maybe something will happen. We’ll be fine.”
The hit came after the Cubs punted with 2:05 to play, giving Rogers the ball on its 10-yard line and down a touchdown. The Eagles reached their 25 before Schiller was hit and never returned to the game. Backup Riley Dolgener took over, but Rogers didn’t get past its 40.
After turning it over on downs with 54 seconds to play, the Eagles were content with their fate, opting not to use any of their three timeouts.
The back-and-forth affair began in big-play fashion when Schiller connected with Joshua Minor for a 62-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game and an early 7-0 Eagles lead.
Clifton tied it late in the quarter on a 17-yard run by quarterback Mason Brandenberger, who finished the night with 159 yards rushing on 24 carries and to go with 199 yards on 15-of-23 passing.
“He’s as good as a quarterback as you will see at our level,” Roten said of Brandenberger.
The Eagles retook the lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Schiller with 9:32 left in the opening half — set up by a 36-yard pass from Schiller to Brady Sisneroz to get to the Clifton 2 — and took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
The Cubs tied it on the opening possession of the second half when Brandenberger found TJ Ferch for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
The teams exchanged touchdowns, with Clifton’s Jimmie Taylor scoring from 3 yards out to give the Cubs their first lead of the night with 58 seconds to play in the third quarter, before Rogers answered with a 5-yard touchdown run by Christian Riley with 7:35 remaining.
The Cubs took the lead for good on a 3-yard run by Brandenberger with 4:07 left.
Mason Ochoa intercepted a pass from Schiller to end the Eagles’ next drive. The Cubs were forced to punt with 2:05 to play, giving Rogers a chance to drive for the tying score before Schiller was knocked out of the game.
CLIFTON 27, ROGERS 21
Clifton 7 0 14 6 — 27
Rogers 7 7 0 7 — 21
Rog — Joshua Minor 68 pass from Heath Schiller (Julian Lashbrook kick)
Cli — Mason Brandenberger 17 run (Jose Ramirez kick)
Rog — Schiller 2 run (Lashbrook kick)
Cli — TJ Ferch 42 pass from Brandenberger (Ramirez kick)
Cli — Jimmie Taylor 3 run (Ramirez kick)
Rog — Christian Riley 5 run (Lashbrook kick)
Cli — Brandenberger 3 run (kick failed)
First downs 25 10
Rushes-yards 39-244 25-85
Passing yards 199 110
Comp.-Att.-Int. 15-23-1 3-18-2
Punts-average 3-31.3 4-36.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 12-111 8-70
RUSHING — Clifton: Brandenberger 24-159, Riley Perry 18-54, Taylor 14-38, Ferch 1-1, Mason Ochoa 1-(-2), team 1-(-6); Rogers: Jordan Riley 5-39, Christian Riley 7-19, Schiller 6-17, Minor 2-8, Jeremiah Quinones 2-5, team 1-(-3).
PASSING — Clifton: Brandenberger 15-23-1-199; Rogers: Schiller 3-13-1-110, Minor 0-2-1-0, Riley Dolgener 0-3-0-0.
RECEIVING — Clifton: Perry 11-130, Ferch 4-69; Rogers: Minor 1-68, Brady Sisneroz 2-48.