West St. John kept coming back.
After an 81-yard pass from Rams quarterback D’Andre Gaudia to receiver Trenton Grow cut West St. John’s deficit to eight points at 38-30 with 1:11 left in the game against visiting McDonogh 35, a successful onside kick gave WSJ one last chance.
Another Gaudia to Grow touchdown – this one from 23 yards out with 18 seconds left in the game inched the Rams to within two points.
It was the fifth time the game the duo hooked up on touchdown passes.
Gaudia tossed to his favorite target for a potential game-tying two-point conversion. Offensive pass interference was called against Grow and the Rams had to try once again. West St. John failed on the second two-point attempt, with the 38-36 dropping WSJ to 3-2 on the season.
“You don’t want to see the game decided with a call like that,” said Walters.
Grow accounted for six touchdowns in the game. Along with nine catches for 345 yards and five touchdown catches, he also had a 7-yard touchdown run.
“He’s a heck of a player and one of the best in the state,” Walters said.
McDonogh 35’s special teams came up big again moments later.
A return of a blocked punt by David Ellis gave the Roneagles the ball at the WSJ 11-yard line. A 4-yard touchdown run by Ashton Jones extended McDonogh 35’s lead to 23-12 at the 9:25 mark of the third quarter.
The Rams answered on Grow’s third touchdown catch of the game, this one from 26 yards out to make it 23-18.
McDonogh 35 started to use up time on the clock by pounding WSJ with its running game but a holding penalty took away a touchdown and the Roneagles (2-3) went on to miss a field goal at the 1:09 mark of the third quarter.
“We have to a better job of getting our stops quicker to not let teams play ball control football against us,” said Walters.
A fumbled handoff exchange by the Roneagles gave the Rams the ball with 10:06 left in the game.
West St. John took quick advantage when Gaudia, who was 14 of 29 passing for 387 yards and five touchdowns, spotted Grow on a 58-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams back on top at 24-23.
It was time for the Roneagles to respond, this time with a 13-yard touchdown run by Raymond Foreman to give McDonogh 35 a 31-24 lead with 5:37 left in the game. Foreman finished with 112 yards rushing.
A bad snap on a punt attempt turned into an interception for McDonogh 35, giving the ball to the Roneagles at their own 40-yard line.
Dwayne Dales eventually scored on a 31-yard touchdown run to extend the Roneagles’ lead to 38-24 with 2:27 left in the game.
Grow’s 81-yard touchdown with slightly more than a minute left in the game got West St. John closer and set up the dramatic, though ill-fated finish for the Rams.
Grow’s first score of the night, a 7-yard reception at the 9:45 mark of the first quarter gave West St. John an early 6-0 lead.
A 55-yard toss from Gaudia to Grow made it 12-0 at the 1:29 mark of the opening quarter.
The Rams attempted to try and pick up a first down when faced with fourth down late in the first half. A delay of game penalty backed up the Rams and ultimately led to a turnover on downs with 3:05 left before halftime.
McDonogh 35 marched 89 yards in the closing moments of the second quarter, with a 37-yard pass from Manuel Armstrong to Torey Chambers, along with a two-point conversion run by Jamarian Henderson, allowing the Roneagles to trail only 12-8 at halftime.
Armstrong finished 6 of 13 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown. Chambers had two receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown.