WHITE HOUSE – Senior night for the members of the 2013 football team was spoiled at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium Friday night as the White House Blue Devils fell 18-10 to Pope John Paul II in non-district play.
Despite taking a 3-0 lead after a 69-yard kickoff return to start the game, the Blue Devils spent the remainder of the night on the rallying end of an eight-point loss to the visitors from Division II. The Knights improved to 4-6 for the year, and White House fell to 8-2.
Junior Josh Mullins broke down the home sideline to the Pope John Paul 29-yard-line in the first quarter, but the Devils managed just a field goal. That’s when the Knights turned to a short field and converted scoring drives of 39 and 44 yards into a 15-3 halftime lead. Quarterbacks Jacob Jarreau and Ben Brooks combined for 7-of-8 passing in the game for 94 yards, and the backfield rushed for 189.
Still, White House had a chance. A 21-play drive took almost the entire third quarter as a touchdown run by senior Alex Felts put White House within five, 15-10. Three possessions in the final quarter came up empty, the final one with no timeouts inside the last minute when Tyler Ellis blocked a PJP field goal and Jamie Futch recovered.
“We were fortunate to have an chance to win the football game and we just came up short,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. “Our kids really played hard and fought back. We could have been down two scores there and it not mattered and they kept battling and gave us a chance. That says a lot about our kids.”
On offense, it was a rough night. But the one push to the endzone made the critical difference. White House had just 121 yards of total offense, but 81 of it came starting at their own 19-yard-line. The Devils three times moved the chains on third down, and three times moved the chains on fourth down, all within the same drive.
White House entering the postseason at home against Page this Friday night is now 20-of-30 on fourth down this season as a team.
“Looking back, we would have liked to have had more than three points in the first quarter on the opening possession,” Porter explained. “But in all the years I have been coaching, I don’t think I have ever seen a drive that took 21 or 22 plays. That was incredible.”
Field position really became the factor again. White House surrendered one field goal in the fourth to extend the lead to 18-10, but was forced to punt from inside the 10-yard-line and also uncharacteristically threw two interceptions. The Blue Devils gave it away twice, despite being plus-11 for the year in turnover ratio.
“We just haven’t done those things all year, and it got us tonight,” Porter noted about the short field and the turnovers.
Senior Ryan Pool was 5-of-14 passing for 36 yards with Luke Hopkins the only receiver to catch two passes. But he and fellow senior Alex Lyon were pressured all night, as Hunter Apple had two sacks. A fourth quarter trick play was broken up when the Knights got into the face of Lyon on a double pass intended for Ellis on the home hash marks.
Felts rushed 20 times for 52 yards, but the power came from the PJP backfield where Gunnar Scholato picked up 71 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown, and Querdarius Hunter led all players with 21 carries for 112 yards and a score.
Austin Hayes caught three passes for 44 yards and a two-point conversion reception, and picked off the Blue Devils on defense once.
For White House, the tackle numbers were heavy as Pope John Paul averaged almost six yards per play. Senior Taylor Wood led the way with 16 tackles, followed by sophomore Denis Schaffer with 14 stops, a sack and tackle for loss. Senior Wesley James had 11 tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses, while seniors Futch and Wyatt Bailey made 10 tackles each.
White House kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. against Page in the first round of the Class 4-A state playoffs. The Blue Devils beat the Patriots, 42-6, in the second round in 2011 at home.