MORRISTOWN — Science Hill will be kicking itself over its loss at Morristown West on Friday.
The Hilltoppers gave up a safety when their opening-series punt was blocked out of the end zone, missed a PAT off the right upright that would’ve put them ahead 20-19 with 10:55 left in the game and watched West’s Jose Rico make his second field goal of the night on the game’s final play for a 22-19 Trojans victory.
Rico’s game-winner, a 27-yarder, came after Science Hill had called three straight timeouts in an attempt to freeze him. Rico also made a 46-yarder to give West a 19-6 lead with 1:43 left in the first half.
“Jose is a great kicker,” Morristown West coach Lamar Brown said. “Those were his first two field goals this season. He’d been in a slump. He was 0-for-5 coming in.”
West’s game-winning drive began at Science Hill’s 43-yard line after a diving interception by Jarek Berry with 2:42 left.
Berry also batted down a pass on a 4th-and-1 play-action pass at the Morristown West 30 with 61â„2 minutes remaining and the score tied at 19, and gave the Trojans a 9-0 lead with a 1-yard TD run with nine minutes left in the first quarter.
“He had a heck of a night tonight,” Brown said. “He had two game-changing plays.”
The Hilltoppers, who fell to 2-2 on the season, outgained the Trojans (4-0), 446 to 294. West got 77 of its yards essentially after the catch on Jerimia Gregg’s 77-yard TD reception from Andrew Lee, which gave the Trojans a 16-3 lead with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
Science Hill outgained West 307-98 in the second half.
“We had our hurry-up thing going,” Science Hill coach Stacy Carter said. “I mean we had them. They were tired. They were given out. … The safety, the extra point — we know what beat us.”
The blocked punt came when Justin Sammons broke clean through the interior of the line and batted the ball from around the 15-yard line backward through the end zone after Science Hill opened the game with a three-and-out.
PATs have been an adventure all season for the Hilltoppers, often due to protection issues. Kicker Perry Murdaugh did make a 20- and 30-yard field goal Friday, and 1 of 2 PATs.
“We kicked a couple of field goals and did some good things on special teams,” Carter said. “But they bit us. … We’ve got a good football team; we’ve just got to straighten out some stuff. I just hate to let that one go. I guarantee you we won total offense — killed them, probably.”
Science Hill also turned the ball over with 71â„2 minutes in the third quarter when it mishandled a shotgun/jet sweep exchange on 1st-and-goal from the 6.
That looked like the play that would break the Hilltoppers’ will, but it seemed to somehow motivate them. Hilltoppers quarterback Justin Snyder was 22-of-34 passing for 265 yards. He also rushed 14 times for 105 yards.
He connected with Aaron Greene seven times for 115 yards, including a 37-yard catch to the Morristown West on 3rd-and-12 on the first play of the fourth quarter. One play later, Jahmar Adams’ 17-yard reception advanced the ball to the West 2, and Adams scored on the following play to make the score 19-19. That’s when the PAT hit high off the right upright.
Jamal Stephens’ 1-yard run and Murdaugh’s PAT got Science Hill within 19-13 with 2:06 left in the third quarter. Greene had a 25-yard catch to the Hilltoppers’ 45 on 3rd-and-11 to begin that drive.
Science Hill’s defense was impressive, particularly in the second half. Tackles for loss or minimal gains came frequently from the likes of Bryson DeJesus, Grant Janeway, Isaiah Stephens and Tate Isbell. O’Ryen Scott led the ’Toppers with 10 tackles and recovered a fumble.
“They played their butts off,” Carter said. “I’m proud of the kids. They deserved to win that game. …
“There ain’t no moral victory, but I mean how can you be mad at kids who played their butt off like that — even with the mistakes we made. They fought. And we had it. We just didn’t finish.”
Todd Page-Gilmore had three catches for 50 yards. Adams and Will Craig had three catches apiece, too.
Tyler Brooks rushed 16 times for 122 yards for West. Lee was 5-of-18 passing for 115 yards. Lee, who will play baseball at Tennessee, also punted seven times for a 45.7-yard average.
Austin Greene had 21 tackles for the Trojans.
Science Hill is at David Crockett on Friday. West visits South Doyle.