For a time in the first half Friday afternoon, underdog Rockville clearly had the upper hand over two-time defending champion Sheridan in the Indiana Class A football championship game.

And with just over two minutes to play, the Rox looked to be within a recovered onside kickoff of beating the Blackhawks as well.

But three times in the second half Sheridan quarterback Nick Zachery broke away for touchdown runs totaling 140 yards, and the versatile junior — yes, Rockville fans, he’s still only a junior — led Sheridan to a 34-28 victory.

“I am very proud of the way we came back on [the Rox],” said Coach Bud Wright of the Blackhawks after accepting his ninth state championship trophy. “They were a lot stronger than we thought … a very good team. It was a great ballgame.”

“The difference in the game was a couple of turnovers that hurt us. But really the difference was No. 7 [Zachery],” coach Herb King of the Rox said. “He is an outstanding athlete and player for them. We did not have an answer for him.

“We got a step slower on defense in the second half. That’s when [Zachery] hurt us,” coach King continued. “In the first half we played with a lot of heart, fire and aggressiveness.

“I think we caught [the Blackhawks] a little off guard. They probably thought we wouldn’t be this good.”

Coach King quipped earlier in the week that the Rox “might throw [the ball] a time or two” in the game, and he wasn’t kidding. Rockville took the opening kickoff, picked up a first down on short passes from Matt King to Tyler Harper and Caleb McMullen, then scored when Matt King heaved a bomb to Daniel Martin for a 62-yard score just 87 seconds into the game.

Unfortunately, however, the ensuing kickoff went to Zachery — who at various times in the game kicked off, punted (for a Class A record 63 yards on one occasion), kicked an extra point, played safety, returned kicks, returned punts and was on the front line for Rockville’s last onside kickoff attempt in addition to running for 198 yards and passing for 61 yards that proved just as important.

Zachery broke through one group of potential tacklers, seemed to be hemmed in on the sideline in front of the Sheridan bench, then broke away down the sidelines to complete an 87-yard return that tied the score 7-7 with 10:18 still left in the first quarter.

“I’ve coached some really good players over the years and Nick ranks right up there,” Wright said of his quarterback, who remains undefeated in three years of postseason play. “He can play any position and is a strong kid for a quarterback.”

Rockville was forced to punt and the return — by Zachery, of course — put the Blackhawks in Rockville territory with a chance to take the lead. But after one first down, that one helped by a Rockville penalty, the Rox stuffed Zachery’s fourth-down run and took over on their own 33-yard line.

This time the Rox marched 67 yards to retake the lead. Now the Rox were mixing up their attack, causing the Blackhawks to use up all their timeouts for the half on defense before the first quarter ended. Rockville converted a third-and-16 situation on a screen pass from Matt King to Zach Clapp, converted another third down on a King-to-Harper pass for 16 yards, and scored with 1:18 left in the first quarter when Clapp squirted through a hole and broke a tackle to score on a 12-yard draw play.

Rockville’s defense, spearheaded by linebackers Kyle Fahey and Jacob Lee, seemed to be in control. It forced the Blackhawks into a fourth-and-9 situation, then wasn’t fooled on a fake punt as Lee, Blake Cunningham and James Kent dropped Zachery for a loss.

But the Rox couldn’t take advantage of a series that started at Sheridan’s 38-yard line, a holding penalty during a long scramble by Matt King immediately putting the Rox in a hole. And after another good defensive series by the Rox — with Steven Ball dumping Zachery for a four-yard loss, leaving Zachery with seven carries for six yards at the time — Rockville marched for nearly six minutes before losing the ball on downs at Sheridan’s 34-yard line.

Although they probably could have been farther ahead, the Rox needed just to stop the Blackhawks for the last 1:25 of the half to take a 14-7 lead to the lockerroom. Instead, Zachery suddenly went to the air, completing a short pass, then a 36-yarder to a diving Kyle Moore, then a touchdown pass to a wide-open Corey Hamersley with 45 seconds left in the half.

“We knew [the Blackhawks] could be right back in it at any moment,” Fahey said after the game. “We were doing our best to keep them bottled up; it just didn’t happen.”

“We had some blown coverages on that drive,” both coach King and safety Matt King said after the game.

Although a missed extra point by Sheridan left Rockville ahead 14-13 at halftime, momentum had started to swing. It was swinging a lot harder two minutes into the third quarter, when Zachery carried out a great fake handoff, hesitated in his own backfield, then bolted 39 yards untouched for the score that put Sheridan ahead.

Rockville mounted a short drive, then had a punt blocked by Brian Hickman. Sheridan drove for what could have been a back-breaking score, but Martin forced a fumble on a halfback pass from Carlton Summe to Seth Bergan and Clapp recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.

It was a brief respite, however. Rockville drove to near midfield, but Summe picked off a pass and Zachery raced 40 yards to score on the next play. Now the Blackhawks led 27-14 with 1:02 left in the third quarter.

Helped by two pass interference penalties, Rockville came back to score on a 6-yard pass from Matt King to Clapp, who dove into the pylon at the left corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 27-21 with 7:47 left in the game. “Collin Stone had a great block, and I just reached out and hit the pylon,” Clapp said after the game.

But instead of being back in the game, the Rox were about to be victimized again. Zachery started to his left on Sheridan’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, was bumped by his running back behind him and stumbled forward — but wound up being bumped into a hole, kept his balance and was off on a 61-yard run. Now it was 34-21 with 7:31 left.

“I thought our kids were awful good,” coach King said after the game, “but you miss one tackle against that team and they score — and we missed a couple of tackles.”

“He’s really shifty,” Kent said of Zachery. “He jukes somebody and then he’s gone.

“We knew [the Blackhawks] were a great team, and our whole team had to step up and be more physical. We stepped up our game, but they are all extremely athletic.”

The Rox appeared to be worn out by this time — “It would be nice if we had people we could two-platoon [like Sheridan did],” coach King noted afterward — and went for the first down on fourth-and-10 from their own 36-yard line. Zachery — who else? — picked off the fourth-down pass, and Sheridan was in Rockville territory with a chance to apply the kill shot.

Instead, the Rockville defense rose up one more time and forced a punt. And Matt King led the Rox down the field on a 95-yard scoring drive in 17 plays, using just two minutes and 39 seconds of time. Aaron Bridge caught the touchdown pass with 2:19 left that cut the lead to six points, but the Rox couldn’t get the ball back from Zachery and the Blackhawks again.

At some point the Rox will realize how hard they fought and what a performance they gave. Friday night, however, they weren’t very happy with themselves.

“We came out and gave it our all,” said Matt King afterward. “It just wasn’t enough. Sheridan is a great ballclub, and they obviously deserved [to win] … we didn’t execute, like we’ve been doing all year, and my hat’s off to Zachery. He’s a great player.”

“[The Blackhawks are] a great team,” said Fahey, who led all tacklers with 15 stops for Rockville. “We made too many mistakes. We were in the game at the end, and that was all we wanted … but this was the end of my career, and I would have loved to come out with a win.”

“We had a few mental errors — I know I was a little awestruck,” said Kent. “But all in all, we had a great season.”

“I’m very pleased with the way my kids performed. They played like champions to the end,” said coach King.

Sheridan 34, Rockville 28

In the RCA Dome

Rockville 14 0 0 14 — 28

Sheridan 7 6 14 7 — 34

R — Daniel Martin 62 pass from Matt King (Billy Bettis kick), 10:33 1Q

S — Nick Zachery 87 kickoff return (Austin King kick), 10:18 1Q

R — Zach Clapp 12 run (Bettis kick), 1:18 1Q

S — Corey Hamersley 18 pass from Zachery (kick failed), 0:45 2Q

S — Zachery 39 run (A.King kick), 10:00 3Q

S — Zachery 40 run (Zachery kick), 1:02 3Q

R — Clapp 6 pass from M.King (Bettis kick), 7:47 4Q

S — Zachery 61 run (A.King kick), 7:31 4Q

R — Aaron Bridge 3 pass from M.King (Bettis kick), 2:19 4Q


First downs 11 22

Rushes-yards 33-245 31-94

Passing yards 77 276

Comp-Att-Int 4-6-0 20-47-2

Return yards 73 0

Punts-avg 2-49 3-18.7

Fumbles-lost 4-1 1-0

Penalties-yards 8-66 3-24

Individual statistics

Rushing — Rockville: M.King 18-50, Clapp 12-35, Caleb McMullen 1-9. Sheridan: Zachery 24-198, Seth Burgan 7-56, Brent Hume 1-1, team 1-minus 10.

Passing — Rockville: M.King 20-47-2, 276 yards. Sheridan: Zachery 3-5-0, 61; Carlton Summe 1-1-0, 16.

Receiving — Rockville: Tyler Harper 7-96, McMullen 5-42, Martin 3-92, Clapp 3-34, Bridge 2-12. Sheridan: Kyle Moore 2-43, Corey Hamersley 1-18, Burgan 1-16.

Records — Sheridan finished 15-0, winning its third straight Class A state championship and its 36th game in a row. Rockville finished 14-1.

Recommended for you