By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
One loss in four years of high school football was enough for John Roderique, thank you very much.
So when he and the rest of the West all-stars were faced with a fourth down-and-goal at the 1-yard-line, trailing the East by three points with just 52 seconds left in the Sertoma Grin Iron Classic, Roderique wasn’t going to be denied.
Roderique, Webb City’s Sam Houston State-bound quarterback, dove into the end zone to give the West a 21-17 win Friday night at John F. Kennedy Stadium, raising the West’s dominance to an 11-1 record in the 12-year history of the game.
“We had to get it,’ Roderique said of the touchdown, which came after he was stopped from the 1 on third down. “ I couldn’t go out of my high school career with two losses. One is plenty.”
Roderique, of course, was part of Webb City’s three consecutive Class 4 state championships, as was running Phoenix Johnson.
Johnson, playing near the Missouri State campus, where he’ll join the Bears this fall, was named the West’s offensive Most Valuable Player, a race that came down to him and Roderique.
Roderique had a hand in all three touchdowns — the game-winner, a a 67-yard touchdown pass to Carthage’s Jordan Dangerfield and a 15-yard fade route score to Johnson.
But Johnson was dominant on the ground, continually finding holes in the defensive line and breaking runs, including a 77-yarder on the West’s first play from scrimmage.
“We have some big lineman and they’re very coachable guys,” Johnson said. “They listened to our coaches and opened up big holes for me and the other skill guys.”
That line on the winning drive included Lamar’s Austin Boice, a 6-foot-7, 300-pounder who will be a preferred walk-on at Arkansas this fall, and Monett’s Reese Bounous, among others.
“The line did a great job,” Roderique said. “That’s probably the best line I’ve seen.”
The West defense was stellar, allowing just 10 points, including three in the second half.
The East got its first touchdown on a 74-yard fumble return by Camdenton’s Chase Nugent (who was named the squad’s defensive MVP) just one play after Johnson’s 77-yard run.
Carthage defensive lineman Bryan Burns looked to have a chance to return the favor for the West later in the half.
He scooped up a loose ball and had some room to run before he was tripped. His big play did, however, set up the Roderique-to-Johnson touchdown that tied the game at 14.
“It was really exciting. I was hoping to go for six,” Burns said. “I had a bunch of guys behind my and I could feel my team and (Webb City’s) Jose (Speer) pushing me and keeping me going. But eventually one of their running backs got my leg and I just fell.”
The East took advantage of one of five West turnovers — four fumbles and an interception — to take a 17-14 lead on a 26-yard field goal with 10:04 remaining.
The teams traded punts before the West began its game-winning drive at its 42 with 6:13 remaining.
The drive included a key third-down pass from Roderique to Mount Vernon’s Shane Williams (a Northwest Missouri State signee) and a pair of key Johnson rushes.
“We’ve been in that situation before and, John and I, we don’t like to lose,“ Johnson said. “And the line did a great job. We all pulled together.”