Consider the football that oval-shaped ball with two pointy ends that gives new meaning to the adage "that's the way the ball bounces."
With the outcome of Friday night's Highland-Davis 4A quarterfinal playoff hanging in the balance, the third-ranked Rams and fourth-ranked Darts traded fumbles on three consecutive fourth-quarter plays. The difference was that the final loose ball was recovered in the end zone by Highland offensive lineman Brad Giles for a touchdown, upping the Rams' late-game lead from 14-12 to a final 20-12 victory."Another typical Davis-Highland game - hard-hitting and back and forth," said Highland Coach Tom Kingsford, mindful of the combined six fumbles. "It's always a battle, it's always all-out - they know what we do and we know what they do."
And why not? Not only are the two teams only a couple of seasons removed from being long-time league rivals, both Davis and Highland are perennial playoff contenders. If it's November and you're seeing double wings and wishbones, it's not necessarily turkey time on the turf. Instead, it's Davis and Highland and their signature offensive attacks at Rice Stadium.
To say that the run is revered among both teams is an understatement. For example, Highland - now with a 9-2 record - won the quarterfinal by attempting only two passes and completing none (not to mention the Rams' two punts for an average of 8.5 yards a kick - and only one punt was partially blocked).
So what of Highland quarterback Joe Sheffield, of whom Kingsford said "he has all the tools to run our offense" after the Ram win? Sheffield keyed the Highland 'bone on the ground, rushing 11 times for 119 yards and scoring two touchdowns - a 35-yarder in the first half that gave the Rams a 7-0 halftime lead and a 58-yarder in the fourth quarter after Davis' Troy DeDecker kicked a pair of third-quarter field goals of 39 and 31 yards. Mark Dahl's second PAT kick gave Highland a 14-6 lead just 10 seconds into the final period.
Davis, which was inside the Ram 20-yard line twice in the first half and came away scoreless, answered on their next possession, going 75 yards in eight plays with Joe Warden rushing the final 5 yards for the score. The Darts failed on a two-point PAT play, keeping the score 14-12.
Highland appeared to be driving for the insurance TD, only to fumble on the Darts 9. Davis returned the favor on its next play, as Allen Backels picked up the ball as it popped up in the air. Highland fumbled again on the next play as Mark Christensen was rambling toward the end zone - but the ball bounced into and around inside the end zone before Giles pounced on it for the score.
Dahl's PAT kick was blocked, keeping the score at 20-12 and allowing Davis a last-ditch try to tie the score. But the Rams' Chris Hathaway picked off his second interception - he also had a fumble recovery - to end the game and end the Darts season at an 8-3 overall record.
Besides Sheffield's 119 rushing yards, teammate John Tenifa added another 81 yards on 14 carries. Warden led the fivesome of Dart rushers with 73 yards on eight attempts.