Early in the second quarter, down 14-0, Bishop Kearney faced fourth down with 30 to go on the Le Roy 33.
The obvious play is to settle for a field goal attempt, but that's not the way of the Kings. Rather, QB Todd LaRocca drops back, fires a bullet and hits Ardell Brown in full stride at the 10. Brown glides into the end zone.
Even without a successful two-point conversion, the score, the entire touchdown drive, in fact, was enough to make Oatkan Knight supporters nervous.
A 14-6 lead is nothing against a team that is fearless about throwing the ball and has athletes who can score from anywhere on the field.
Brown would remind everybody of that again when he returned the opening half kickoff for a touchdown, making the score 22-12.
Even if you liked Le Roy's chances against Bishop Kearney, 22-12 still didn't feel safe.
Head Coach Brian Moran stuck with the game plan -- grind the clock away with a relentless ground attack and bend, but don't break, on defense.
In the end, Le Roy remained undefeated, moving to 6-0, and the previous undefeated Kings dropped to 5-1. The final score, 29-20.
It was the fewest points the Knights have scored in a game this season, and the most points the team has given up.
The win also secured Moran's 199th career victory.
"That's a good football team, and when you start getting towards the end of the year, you want to play good football teams, because you want to see where you are and I really thought our kids did a good job today," Moran said.
The win over a good football team was a big confidence boost for the Knights, running back Tom Kelso said.
"We've actually proven that we're a good team this year," Kelso said. "In order to be the best, you've got to beat the best, and that's one of the best teams out there right there."
Early on, it was easy to see how Moran planned to win this football game. He kept the ball on the ground on seven of the first eight plays, and of the 12 plays of the opening drive, only one (an incomplete pass) failed to gain yards.
That drive gave Le Roy a 7-0 lead and took 7:15 off the clock.
The Kings tried to strike back quickly. Brown darted for a 25-yard gain on a running play and LaRocca snapped off a 20-yard pass, and within four plays and a little more than a minute off the clock, the Kings were inside the red zone.
It would be the first of four times in the game where the Kings found themselves in the red zone, but failed to score.
"Like I told our guys, when you get in the red zone, it's about hunger and who wants it more," said Bishop Kearney Head Coach Eddie Long. "It's about hunger and manning up and beating the next man. They put a lot of pressure on you. They blitz you from a lot of different angles. They disguise their coverages. You can tell that they work hard and they practice a lot on their schemes. And they're a physical team. At the end of the day, they man up, they beat you and they want it."
LaRocca is a tough quarterback to beat. He gets rid of the ball fast, throws accurately and throws long. For most of the night, Le Roy went with only a three-man front, which meant LaRocca faced little pressure, but even when he managed to hit an open receiver, Le Roy's backfield swarmed on the ball carrier and limited positive yardage.
This made it hard for the Kings to sustain a drive.
"I thought our defensive coordinator, Andy (Andrew Paladino), did a great job, rotating back and going to a three-man front, and putting us in a situation were we had some extra secondary help," Moran said. "That really proved crucial for us today."
For all the ball-control offense, there was still McMullen to McQuillen in the playbook.
Le Roy's first TD came when Mike McMullen, facing a fourth down, hits Mike McQuillen on the five, after McQuillen bobbed and faked Brown to give himself space and an open lane for a score.
Near the end of the half, the Knights found themselves in another fourth down situation close to the end zone after a long drive. A penalty dropped them back five yards, making it fourth-and-nine.
McMullen dropped a lob over McQuillen's right shoulder, where only he can catch it. McQuillen's so fast, there's nobody between him and the end zone. The 39-yard pass play gives Le Roy a 22-12 lead.
In a manner of speaking, one of the most crucial moments in the game came on the extra points for this touchdown. Le Roy's point-after attempt failed, but there was a penalty on the play, giving the Knights another chance from the one-yard line.
Tom Kelso dove over the white line for two points, two very important points, as it turned out.
At the close of the game, after a TD for Bishop Kearney set the score up at 29-20, and then the Kings recovered an onside kick with 1:20 left on the clock, Le Roy's nine-point lead was still seemed reasonably secure. A seven-point lead would have been precarious in this situation and even eight points would have been a nail biter.
Coach Long, having seen Le Roy up close now, thinks the Knights are the team to beat this year in Section V Class C.
"First and foremost, they're so disciplined, so well coached," Long said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes. From what I've seen, they've put a couple of wrinkles into their offense that's going to make them tougher. In the past, you could just key in on their run and put eight, nine in the box, but they spread it out a little bit more, which opens up their run and you have to worry about their pass. They're well coached, they're disciplined, they play hard. You have to beat them. They're not going to beat themselves."
Le Roy's offensive stats:
Mike McMullen, 6 for 11, 95 yards, 2 TDs.
Tom Kelso, 21 rushes, 89 yards, one reception, 28 yards
Nick Egeling, 19 rushes 74 yards, 1 TD
Jon Pierce, 7 rushes, 33 yards
Ryan McQuillen, 4 rushes 35 yards, 1 TD, 3 receptions, 57 yards, 2 TDs
Jake Henry, 6 tackles and a sack
Tom Kelso, 6 tackles
Mike McMullen, 5 tackles
Nick Egeling, 4 tackles
Reed Kacur, 4 tackles
Ryan McQuillen, 2 tackles and an interception
Bishop Kearney had 383 yards total offense, with only 68 of those yards coming on the round. LaRocca was 19 for 38 passing for 315 yards and one TD. Brown had nine receptions for 151 yards. Jalen Long had seven receptions for 110 yards. Dahmir Pross rushed for 27 yards and a TD on 11 carries.
Top photo: McQuillen with a reception for Le Roy's first TD of the game.
Brown with a touchdown reception on a fourth-30 play in the second quarter.
Bishop Kearney QB Todd LaRocca
Tom Kelso with the ball.
McQuillen ready for a McMullen pass to drop into his hands for a 39-yard TD reception.
Brown with the ball starting his run for a touchdown to open the second half.
Brown scoring to open the second half.
McMullen handing off to Kelso.
To purchase prints, click here.