There are numerous ways for a high-school football team's playoff aspirations to evaporate.
And then there was the way it dissipated for Burlington Central Friday night in Richmond.
The visiting Rockets were left to a stunned-silience when Richmond-Burton scored the game-tying touchdown and game-winning extra point in a 14-13 Big Northern East overtime victory, which made R-B (5-2, 3-2) eligible for the playoffs and erased the postseason hopes and a major comeback for the Rockets, whose backs were against the wall with 4 losses.
Burlington Central (2-5, 2-3) trailed 7-0 up through parts of the third quarter and managed to take its first lead in overtime. But outgaining Richmond-Burton 222-221 in total yards and 156-111 in the second half along with playing more urgently wasn't enough to keep BC's playoff hopes alive.
"This was the game that basically got us into the playoffs," said Central's Casey Matthews, who finished with 2 touchdowns and 70 yards rushing. "Everything amounted to this game."
BC might kick itself until 2014 for all the miscues, but it can't forget the heart, will and guts it played with in the second half.
The Rockets called running back Reilly Marino's number 18 times in the final 24 minutes, as he totaled a bruising 170 yards on 24 carries. He was much in part the reason BC sustained long second half drives. The senior ran 57 yards of an 11-play, 69-yard drive that Matthews finished up with a 1-yard run to tie the game in the third quarter. Marino also followed up with 68 yards on a 13-play, 67-yard drive that stalled after the Rockets missed a 32-yard field goal with 1:32 remaining in regulation.
And although Matthews put BC ahead with a 6-yard run during the first series of overtime, the Rockets will ponder over the extra point miss in OT along with a muffed punt that led to R-B's first touchdown in the first quarter.
"It's sad to see we're not going to make it to the playoffs," said Marino. "We played hard, there were little things we needed to do, we played hard but we could've played harder."
Ironically, the game-winning extra point by R-B junior backup kicker Brandon Kilcoyne was his first two kicks in a varsity uniform. He was promoted to first string after Sergio Hernandez was lost to a concussion earlier this week.
"Brandon became our kicker (Thursday)," R-B coach Pat Elder said. "Those were his first two varsity points and they were big ones."
Central allowed just 111 yards in the second half. The Rockets forced 2 turnovers on downs and 7 tackles for loss and came out invigorated, playing smashmouth football. After BC fumbled on the R-B 37 with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter, a spirited defensive attack led by defensive end Kyle Coffland and linebacker Cole Roach forced Richmond quarterback Daniel Rygiel into an incomplete pass on fourth-and-2 from the BC 18. Bradley Boelkow, R-B's leading rusher with 12 carries for 80 yards who also scored a TD in overtime, was held to 45 yards in the last 24 minutes.
"It was a battle," Elder admitted. "I'd say the second half they certainly beat us at our own game, they controlled field position, controlled the ball."
That stop appeared to set the stage for what looked to be a game-winning drive. From their own 18 with 6:56 remaining, the Rockets held the ball for 5:24, with Marino carrying the load. BC coach Rich Crabel called for time with 1:32 on fourth down on the R-B 15 and the subsequent boot went wide left. In OT, Kilcoyne booted the extra point after Boelkow rushed it in from 8-yards to extend R-B's winning streak to 4.
"Our kids played hard," Crabel said. "We could have made a couple of plays here and there, could have made things a little bit different, but our kids played hard."
R-B scored on a Rygiel's 7-yard bootleg early in the second quarter after it recovered the muffed punt at BC 24. R-B managed just 19 passing yards but also won the turnover battle, 2-0.