n Gooding 21, Kellogg 20
By JOSH MCDONALD
GOODING — Six inches.
That was all the Kellogg Wildcats needed on Saturday, but unfortunately they didn’t get them as the Wildcats dream season came to an end after a 21-20 loss to the Gooding Senators in the 3A State Playoffs.
Gooding came into the game as the number three team in the state, but the Wildcats weren’t impressed as the team traded points and defensive stands in a game that could very well be the best game of the playoffs.
Gooding opened the game with a quick march down the field to take an early 8-point lead, but Kellogg responded with a drive of its own as Chase Jerome found the endzone and then Ryan Morgan converted on the 2-point conversion to tie it up 8-8.
It would be nearly a full quarter later before anyone scored as both teams showed off their defensive chops, but Gooding would notch a late touchdown in the second quarter to go up 14-8 into halftime.
Halftime became the moment of reckoning for the Wildcats, who knew that they had 24 minutes to make something happen, and despite the score they did not disappoint.
“We had to make some adjustments, we had to come out with more heart than them,” quarterback Chase Jerome said. “I think we did.”
The defense held, the offense threatened, but neither team made any moves in the third quarter. And then the fourth quarter happened and the game became an instant classic.
Kellogg ran a double pass as Jerome connected with backup quarterback Raiden Rickets who air mailed a pass to Chris Jennings that put the Wildcats inside the 10-yard line.
Jerome then hit Jennings for a touchdown to tie the ballgame with 6 minutes left.
A wet ball slipped on the point-after attempt to leave the score tied up at 14.
Gooding went into panic mode, but their sophomore quarterback kept his composure, including a huge fourth down conversion that set up a score to give the Senators a 21-14 lead with less than 3 minutes left.
A big return from Ryan Morgan gave Kellogg great field position, and Jerome continued to flex his muscles as a passer as he and tight end Jake Hammerberg moved the ball down the field in less than 40 seconds to set up another run by Jerome to put the Wildcats within one point.
On the conversion, Morgan took the handoff and made his move toward the endzone, spinning off one defender he reached for the goalline, but came up just inches shy of the 2 points.
Gooding needed one more first down to run the clock out.
“I really thought we had them,” coach Dan Lucier said. “It feels like we should be getting ready to host a game this weekend.”
The shock of losing aside, coach Lucier was more than OK with his team’s performance in their biggest game in almost two decades.
“We more than held our own,” Lucier said. “These boys showed that they weren’t going to roll over and they showed their heart in this game.”
Speaking of heart, on Morgan’s failed 2-point conversion run, he was attempting the run on ankle that he had injured during his big return just a few seconds earlier, but neither Lucier nor Jerome would have had it any other way.
“He was the leader for us all season long,” Lucier said. “He was the one we could call on for that kind of responsibility.”
“No one has more heart than Ryan,” Jerome said. “It’s his team, we fed off his heart all season long and it was the right call to give him that shot.”
The Wildcats will finish the season with a record of 6-3, but they didn’t fade quietly, Gooding’s players openly believed they were going to score 80 points on the Wildcats, but they may have just survived their toughest test of the season.
“We did what we did all season,” Jerome said. “We played as hard as we could. I hate losing, but I’m happy with this season. We left it all on the field and have nothing to be ashamed of.”