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Hawklets Bottle Up Broncos When It Counts, Claim District Title

Jonathan Nash
The team poses for pictures with the district championship trophy after beating top-seed Lee’s Summit North 24-21 on Nov. 10, 2023.

The Hawklets arrived at Lee’s Summit North High School last Friday night for a highly anticipated game against the Broncos. They returned to State Line Road with a district championship trophy and a win over the No. 1 team in Missouri. 

Lee’s Summit North received the first half kickoff and carried out a lengthy 19-play drive that culminated in a 6-yard rushing score. The Broncos converted several third downs and a fourth down on their way to the end zone.

But the Hawklets would respond with a sustained 14-play drive of their own. Rockhurst worked the ball down the field and evened the score up on a 13-yard screen pass from senior quarterback Ethan Hansen to senior tailback Aidan Ryan.

“It was important to set a tone with our first drive,” Ryan said. “To take the ball down the field and get six right away gave us the confidence we needed for the rest of the game.”

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On the Broncos’ ensuing possession, they completed a 53-yard pass to set them up in the red zone. They  would capitalize with another rushing touchdown; this one coming from two yards out.

But Hansen, who threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns on the night, completed several passes on the next drive, the biggest of which was a 33-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Jack Bichelemeyer.

Bichelemeyer made what appeared to be a contested catch that would knot up the score at 14. The officials initially called pass interference on the Broncos and ruled the pass incomplete. After talking it over, however, the pass was ruled a completion and touchdown.

“I thought the ball bounced off someone else and deflected into my hands,” Bichelmeyer said. “My reaction [to celebrate the touchdown] was genuine because I thought I caught it.”

After the touchdown, the Hawklet defense stepped up and stuffed the Bronco offense on fourth down. The turnover-on-downs gave the ball back to the Hawklets with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. Senior linebacker Gus Sorenson thought the stop was crucial.

“It was really important for us to give the ball back to the offense before the half ended,” he said. “We knew every possession in this game was going to be meaningful, so getting an extra one was huge.”

The Hawklets took advantage of the turnover in quick fashion. Hansen found Bichelmeyer for a 42-yard gain on the first play of the drive. This chunk play moved Rockhurst into field goal range. Senior kicker Logan Kuechler did the rest, splitting the uprights from 35 yards out to give the Hawklets a 17-14 lead heading into the intermission.

Those three points proved to be the difference in the game.

The Broncos were able to stop the Hawklets on the first possession of the second half. In addition to the stop, they were able to put together a 96-yard touchdown drive that took up most of the third quarter of play. Lee’s Summit North punched it in from four yards out to give them a 21-17 lead.

But the Hawklets would respond, yet again, with a 15-play drive that was capped off with Ryan’s second score of the night. The Hawklets were a perfect two-for-two on fourth downs en route to the end zone. Ryan was pleased with his team’s resilience throughout the drive.

“We never gave up,” Ryan said. “We had a few plays that didn’t go our way, but we never stopped believing. It was a total team effort to score that touchdown.”

With the clock ticking under five minutes left in regulation, Rockhurst’s 24-21 lead was in the hands of the Hawklet defense. Lee’s Summit North began the possession at their own 13-yard-line. They were able to get the ball into Hawklet territory after a few plays, but didn’t get much further.

On 4th down, the Hawklet pass rush was able to force an errant throw from the Bronco quarterback. The ball skipped across the turf and was ruled incomplete. This gave Rockhurst the ball back and—more importantly—the win.

Senior defensive back Dom Yarbrough enjoyed the victory.

“When the ball hit the ground, I just felt really proud to be a part of our team,” Yarbrough said. “Not a lot of people predicted us to win that game, but we did a good job of blocking out the noise.”

After the game, videos and photos emerged showing that the ball hit the ground on Bichelmeyer’s second quarter touchdown and bounced up to him. MSHSAA rules say any type of photo or video evidence cannot be used to overturn calls. That hasn’t stopped Lee’s Summit North fans from pushing for that rule to be changed and for the game to be replayed. Some have even left hateful and snarky comments on the social media of Rockhurst players or other message boards.

The context missing from some of the online uproar is that if the pass was ruled incomplete, Rockhurst would have had a fresh set of downs at the Bronco 18-yard line due to a pass interference penalty called on the Broncos on the play. At the time, the Hawklets were moving the ball consistently against the Lee’s Summit North defense, so the drive could have met with a similar end: a touchdown for the Hawklets and a tie game with a little more than a minute to go in the 2nd quarter.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but I’m glad we still had another two and a half quarters to play after it,” Bichelmeyer said.

Bichelmeyer recognizes that, while some people are still concerned with the Broncos game, Rockhurst has to regroup for another challenge this week.

“We have to find a way to forget about last week and focus on this Friday,” he said.

Rockhurst will take on Nixa in the state quarterfinal game on Friday. Nixa enters the game undefeated, carrying an 11-0 record and No. 3 ranking with them on the trip to Kansas City.


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