HUTCHINSON — In a football game that produced 1,070 yards, it was the last 10 that decided the outcome.
Rossville’s quicksilver quarterback Jacob Bradshaw skirted around left end on the first play following a Jordan Johnston fumble recovery to give the Bulldawgs a heart-stopping 48-42 overtime victory over Hesston in the Class 3A state championship game at Gowans Stadium.
Bradshaw’s run completed his amazing day as he rushed 40 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for 148 yards and three scores.
It was Rossville’s third straight state title, but the Swathers gave them everything they wanted.
Behind quarterback Zach Esau, the Hesston offense racked up 261 yards on the ground and 238 through the air for 499 total as it again displayed its customary balance.
It was a bitter defeat for the Swathers, who led most of the game. The turning point came in the overtime when Esau was hit at the 1 on third down and fumbled, with Johnston right there to recover. The crestfallen Swathers then could not stop the shifty Bradshaw, whose TD set off a wild celebration.
“This team could have packed it in a long time ago,” said Hesston coach Clint Rider, as it finished 10-4 after a 1-3 start. “We got to play in this game. I’m thankful we were able to get to this point because not many teams or coaches ever get to experience this, so it was pretty special.”
Hesston seemingly was on the verge of taking control of the game on several occasions, but each time the leather-tough Bradshaw would direct the ‘Dawgs back in it.
The Swathers exploded to a 20-7 first-quarter lead on a pair of Parker Roth TD rumbles of 7 and 27 yards to go along with an Esau score from the 2.
Rossville pulled within 20-13 by the half, but Hesston scored on the first play of the second half as Esau went up top to Zach Vogt for 61 yards and a 2-pointer by Roth on an Esau flip made it 28-13.
It was just a shootout from there. Back-to-back scores by the Bulldawgs pulled them within 28-27, but before the third quarter was over Esau found Cameron Cox for a 31-yard strike and 35-27 lead.
After Rossville came right back to tie, the Swathers again went up by a score as Esau ran 2 yards for a 42-35 lead. Rossville tied the game at 42-all with 1:22 to go and then had a chance to win as Hesston faked a punt in the closing moments that was snuffed out. A 44-yard Frederik Andresen field goal attempt for Rossville missed and it was OT.
After runs of 3 and 5 yards by Esau and Roth, respectively, Esau was hit as he was trying to reach out to get the ball in the end zone. The ball was knocked out to set up Bradshaw’s winning scamper.
Esau finished with 112 yards rushing and 238 passing. Roth had a monster first half with 117 yards, but was held to 18 in the second half for 135. Cox had 9 catches for 124 yards and Vogt had 4 for 107.
Esau showed what a special player he was as he never was rattled.
“His (Esau) arm is something you don’t get very often at the 3A level,” Rider said. “His throwing motion is awesome. He can throw it 50 yards and hit a guy on a dime running at full speed. He’s a special player and again, we wouldn’t be here without him.”
A key moment in the game occurred in the fourth quarter with Hesston up 35-27. A Bradshaw pass was picked off by Esau, but pass interference was called and the Bulldawgs scored on the next play to tie it at 35-all. The way the Hesston offense was moving that pick could have been a clincher and it was one of only four penalties in the game — all going against Hesston as Rossville didn’t have a single penalty.
Dawson Hemmes had 106 yards rushing for Rossville, which had 413 on the ground. Cole Schumacher had 9 catches for 135 yards and three scores.
Defensively, the Swathers revolved around the “Zach Attack” — Zach Anderson had 17 tackles, Esau had 16 and Vogt 15.
The teams had met in 1992 in a game a polar opposite of this one as the Swathers won 3-0.