The Battle for the Big Dog Jug did not disappoint as Rosepine made big plays late to defeat Pickering 28-20 Thursday night in O'Bannion Stadium – the second in as many years for the Eagles.
The Red Devils received the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field behind a pair of first down runs and a 43-yard touchdown catch by junior running back Braden Lebato from quarterback Marlon Freeney.
Lebato paced the Pickering offense with 150 total yards of offense and two touchdowns.
The Rosepine offense answered on its first drive as freshman running back Grant Ducote and sophomore quarterback Ethan Frey led the team into the end zone behind Frey’s quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line.
After the opening possession, the Eagles’ offense sputtered to a standstill as Rosepine punted on the next four possessions.
“We were lucky to get the win,” Rosepine head coach Brad Ducote said. “Pickering out-executed us all night. Ethan [Frey] was struggling and some early drops kept him from getting into a rhythm.”
The Red Devils’ second possession was a long, methodical drive that took 20 plays and lasted for several minutes. Pickering controlled the time of possession by moving the ball on the ground behind the two-headed running attack of Lebato and senior Anthony Woods, who spelled Lebato in the backfield throughout the night.
Woods punched the second possession of the Red Devils into the end zone to make it 13-6.
Woods amassed more than 40 yards rushing on the night. In addition to his use at running back, Woods also contributed multiple tackles for loss and a sack.
Rosepine defensive back Isiah Stinson put the Eagles ahead with a 28-yard pick-6 to give the Eagles a 14-13 lead at halftime.
Lebato recorded his second touchdown of the game at the 7:59 mark of the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run to give Pickering the 20-14 edge.
The Eagles were plagued by drops for much of the night but capitalized on good field position after a kickoff return by Stinson gave Frey and the offense the ball at the Pickering 9-yard line on the ensuing kickoff.
“Isaiah Stinson was huge,” Ducote said. “He did a good job of keeping Pickering from building momentum. He took it.”
Grant Ducote plunged into the end zone to pick up his second score of the night on a 9-yard run. The two-point attempt failed, but the freshman back picked up two others on the night as he accounted for 113 rushing yards, two touchdowns and two two-point conversions.
Still, the game was knotted at 20 entering the fourth quarter. Frey had netted minus-4 passing yards entering the fourth quarter and finished the game with just 14 passing yards as Pickering held the Eagles offense to less than 150 total yards.
That’s when Rosepine decided to turn to ground-and-pound.
“It’s great to have in your back pocket,” Ducote said of his offense’s rushing attack in the fourth quarter. “We knew Pickering had players on both sides of the ball, but many have to play both ways. We were able to wear them down.”
On the field much of the night, Rosepine’s defense gave up more than 200 yards rushing and 149 yards through the air. But it was the defense that came up big late in the fourth quarter.
Pickering had the football at the 20-yard line, two timeouts to burn, and 1:49 on the game clock, but Rosepine senior defensive end Hunter Harriman was able to force a fumble by Freeney.
The Eagles recovered the fumble, and the offense was able to seal the victory and secure the Big Dog Jug.
“To the kids and community, you would swear this was the state championship,” Brad Ducote said. “It was huge. I think you almost have to split it in half though. Coach (Ryan) Russo is outstanding and you feel for him when you know the man on the other sideline is such a stand-up guy.”
The Eagles and Red Devils will both be back in action next week. Pickering will travel to Kinder to take on the Yellowjackets on Friday, while the Eagles travel to Oakdale to take on the Warriors.