SMITHVILLE — Christian Riley scored all three of Rogers’ touchdowns as the Eagles withstood a furious second-half onslaught from previously undefeated Poth for a stunning 21-20 victory in a Class 3A Division II area-round playoff game Friday night.
Despite the Pirates’ record, it was a game the Eagles felt they could win.
“They are a good team and they came out and played much better in the second half,” Rogers coach Charlie Roten said of Poth. “They did some things to us offensively that we had to get ready for, but we did what we had to do.”
Rogers (7-5) will carry a five-game winning streak into a regional semifinal that will be a rematch against fellow District 13-3A-II member Buffalo (11-1), which defeated the Eagles in September. Next week’s rematch will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD Stadium.
The Pirates (9-1) scored 20 straight points to start the second half after trailing 14-0.
Poth quarterback Jude George finished a five-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper on the opening possession of the third quarter to make it 14-7.
After holding the Eagles on downs at the Pirates 21-yard line, Poth drove for the game-tying touchdown when Cooper Conn bowled his way in from the 11 on the ninth play of the drive with 1:07 left in the third.
The Eagles gambled on fourth-and-2 at their 45 on the first play of the fourth and came up empty. Three plays later, George sprinted 34 yards for a touchdown. The point-after attempt was wide, and the Pirates led 20-14 with 11:10 to play.
“I don’t regret that,” Roten said of the fourth-down try. “We thought we could make it.”
Undaunted, the Eagles responded by embarking on a 13-play, 64-yard march mostly on the ground, with the ball distributed to five rushers. Riley completed the drive with a 7-yard scamper around the right side into the end zone.
Kicker Julian Lashbrook, who hit the upright on two straight first-half field goal attempts, calmly converted the decisive extra-point kick with 5:23 to play.
“My mindset was just to keep swinging and whatever happens, happens,” Lashbrook said. “(The other kicks) already happened, and I just put them out of my mind.”
The game wasn’t done as the Pirates charged back inside the Rogers 30, before George coughed up the ball at the end of a run.
Poth the forced Rogers into a three-and-out and still had an opportunity to win, but kicker Seth Drzymala 42-yard field goal attempt fell short and wide right with 36 seconds left to seal the Eagles’ victory.
“We had our chances in the first half and came up short, settling for field goals,” Roten said.
Rogers controlled the first half and didn’t get all the points it might have en route to a 14-0 halftime lead.
It took a special teams play to put the Eagles on top first. Riley fielded a punt and took it back 52 yards along the right sideline for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead at the 2:55 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles moved inside the red zone on successive possessions following Poth turnovers — including a rare interception by Rogers defensive tackle Tyler Shelton — and came up empty both times when Lashbrook hit the right upright on field goal tries of 31 and 35 yards.
Rogers posted the only offensive points of the first half on an eight-play, 86-yard drive. Riley Dolgener hit Riley with a 32-yard strike to the Poth 24. On the next play, Riley took a handoff around right end and went the distance as the Eagles carried a two-touchdown lead into halftime.
ROGERS 21, POTH 20
Rogers 7 7 0 7 — 21
Poth 0 0 14 6 — 20
Rog — Christian Riley 52 punt return (Julian Lashbrook kick)
Rog — Riley 24 run (Lashbrook kick)
Poth — Jude George 1 run (Seth Drzymala kick)
Poth — Cooper Conn 11 run (Drzymala kick)
Poth — George 34 run (kick failed)
Rog — Riley 7 run (Lashbrook kick)
First downs 16 17
Rushes-yards 46-262 34-229
Passing yards 34 84
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-8-0 6-16-1
Punts-average 3-38 3-38.1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 2-20 3-27
RUSHING — Rogers: Riley 16-106, John Hill 9-58, Riley Dolgener 12-36, Christian Watkins 3-35, RJ Cook 4-19, Alex Vargas 2-8; Poth: Conn 14-115, George 15-90, Caleb Molina 5-24.
PASSING — Rogers: Dolgener 4-8-0-34; Poth: George 6-16-1-84.
RECEIVING — Rogers: Riley 2-24, Jacob Glasgow 2-10; Poth: Drzymala 1-32, Hayden Davis 2-23, Ayden Walpole 1-15, Jaeden Fangman 1-10, Conn 1-4.