The air was sucked out of Ron Poe Stadium less than six minutes into Friday night’s homecoming game when Rockwall took a commanding 14-0 lead.
Not only did the Yellowjackets take control early but they did it in dominating fashion with two defensive stops and back-to-back touchdown runs of 54 and 50 yards. On the game’s first play, the festive homecoming atmosphere in the McKinney High bleachers went silent when Rockwall’s Alex Ntchobo ran the football right through the heart of the Lions’ defense and untouched into the north endzone.
Ntchobo’s huge rushing score set the tone for a night that saw McKinney High and Rockwall combine for nearly 90 running plays and over 800 yards on the ground. The Lions managed to outrush the Yellowjackets by 100 yards but when the final buzzer sounded, the only numbers that mattered were on the scoreboard, 31-22 in favor of the visitors.
“Rockwall is a great football team. Scott Smith and his staff did a great job and we give them a lot of credit,” McKinney High head football coach Jeff Smith said. “Coming out, they popped some big runs on us and we just needed to make adjustments. The kids responded to those adjustments and played so much better after those initial scores.”
On its next drive, the Rockwall offense proved that its first score of the game wasn’t a fluke. This time, it was Jackets’ quarterback, Wesley Davis, who ran the ball up the gut and blew right past the linebackers and secondary for an untouched trip to the end zone. At that moment, it looked like the Jackets were going to spoil the Lions homecoming celebration with a blowout victory.
Not so fast.
On the ensuing kickoff, junior JJ Johnson returned to ball 30 yards before being brought down near midfield. The return set up a 9-play drive for McKinney High that was capped off by a 28-yard touchdown run from junior Jonathon Shannon. There’s no question that Shannon has been spectacular all season but he delivered perhaps the best performance of his career Friday night when he carried the ball 18 times for a jaw-dropping 293 yards.
“Jonathon had a great night and we’re proud of how we battled,” Smith said. “But he’ll also tell you that we had some great blocking tonight. We were more physical up front than we’ve been all year long. That’s what we’ve been trying to get and we got it tonight.”
The Lions may have managed to get on the scoreboard but Rockwall maintained momentum by blocking Chuck Schober’s extra-point attempt and following up with a two-minute scoring drive ending with a 10-yard run by Baylor Black.
With a 21-6 advantage, the Jackets stopped MHS on its next offensive drive and looked to put the game away early by going up by three scores. Up to that point, the MHS defense showed no signs that it could stop Rockwall. But with their backs against the wall, the Lions pulled together and forced a punt on 4th-and-1.
In last week’s loss at Rockwall-Heath, junior quarterback Robert Somborn suffered a concussion and was not cleared to suit up for Friday’s homecoming game. The Lions turned to inexperienced former linebacker, Brooks Johnston, to lead the offense against a fierce Jackets defense. Johnston completed just one pass for three yards but it wasn’t what he did with his arm, but rather his legs, that gave McKinney High the boost it needed in the second quarter.
Trailing 21-6, Johnston marched the Lions offense down to the redzone with a 64-yard scamper that set up an 8-yard scoring run by junior Matt Reynolds.
“Brooks did a great job,” Smith said. “He’s just coming back from a concussion that he got during the Frisco game. I couldn’t be more proud of Brooks and what he did tonight.”
Unfortunately for the Lions, Johnston suffered an injury on the drive and was replaced by senior transfer student Buck Shaw for the rest of the game. Despite the injury to their second-string quarterback, Lions kept momentum rolling on their next kickoff when a Rockwall fumble was recovered by Garrett Christianson. Four minutes before halftime, Schober kicked a 20-yard field goal to narrow the Rockwall lead to 21-15.
Schober’s field goal would be the last points posted on the scoreboard until the fourth quarter when Rockwall kicker Andrew Hinckley kicked a 28-yard field goal to put the Jackets ahead by 9 points. Just 15 seconds later, the Lions responded with another 8-yard scoring run from Reynolds that cut the Rockwall lead to 24-22.
After clawing their way back into the game, the Lions got another defensive stop and, with less than five minutes to go, had an opportunity to drive the ball down the field and take the lead. Shannon, who was nothing short of incredible all game long, fumbled the football and what could have been a game-winning drive and Rockwall put the finishing touches on the victory with a 6-yard run by Davis with 1:49 in regulation. The Lions were visibly upset after the loss but no one was more heartbroken than Shannon.
“He’s hates to lose,” Smith said. “It means something to him to be a McKinney Lion and it means something for this program to win.”
With the loss, McKinney High dropped to 0-6 on the year, including three losses in District 10-4A.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com
Rockwall (10:18) – Alex Ntchobo 54 run (Andrew Hinckley kick)
Rockwall (6:40) – Wesley Davis 50 run (Tyler Bonny kick)
McKinney (1:20) – Jonathon Shannon 28 run (Chuck Schober kick blocked)
Rockwall (11:55) – Baylor Black 10 run (Hinckley kick)
McKinney (6:35) – Matt Reynolds 8 run (pass failed)
McKinney (4:27) – Schober 20 FG
Rockwall (10:25) – Hinckley 28 FG
McKinney (10:10) – Reynolds 8 run (Schober kick)
Rockwall (1:49) – Wesley Davis 6 run (Bonny kick)
Rockwall – Wesley Davis 6-of-9, 40 yards, 1 INT.
McKinney – Brooks Johnston 1-of-3, 3 yards, 1 INT, Buck Shaw 0-of-2.
Rockwall – Wesley Davis 24 carries for 196 yards and 2 TD, Alex Ntchobo 10 carries for 120 yards and 1 TD, Baylor Black 7 carries for 31 yards and 1 TD.
McKinney – Jonathon Shannon 18 carries for 293 yards and 1 TD, Brooks Johnston 5 carries for 86 yards, Jimmy Benton 13 carries for 43 yards, Matt Reynolds 6 carries for 33 yards and 2 TD.
Rockwall – Zach Berryman 3 catches for 23 yards, Coan Calabrese 2 catches for 11 yards.
McKinney – Connor Fuentes 1 catch for 3 yards.