Hilldale was gut-punched and reeling.
Consider it just off the effective target for Grove’s upset-minded Ridgerunners on Friday night.
Quarterback Johnnie Durossette’s 5-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by Brayson Lawson with 7.1 seconds left lifted the No. 6 Hornets out what looked like a heartbreaking finish and into the Class 4A quarterfinals Friday night as they came away with a seemingly improbable 43-42 comeback win over the Grove Ridgerunners.
All because the heart was never pierced.
“You’re going to have to knock us flat out before we’re done,” said Hilldale head coach David Blevins, his team now 11-1 and into a even still more improbable matchup with Cushing, which upset No. 2 Weatherford 34-30. Instead of a three-hour drive west next week, Hilldale will host Cushing with an eye on its first-ever semifinal trip.
Grove’s Kadian Forbis had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first a 41-yard catch-and-run from sophomore quarterback Carson Trimble that gave Grove its first lead of the game, 35-28, with 7:17 to play. It came after the second of two fumbles by Hornets running back Eric Virgil, who the Ridgerunners shut down coming off his two-week quarantine due to COVID-19.
Durossette, overall 12-of-16 for 263 yards, was intercepted once in the fourth quarter with under 5 minutes to play. The Hornets would force a three-and-out to get another crack with 2:21 to play.
Lawson’s toss off a handoff from Durossette found Ty O’Neal for 41 yards got the Hornets close and Jaden McWilliams’ 2-yard run with 1:25 to go tied it at 35.
Back came Grove, or more appropriately, Forbis. He took the first-down handoff and zig-zagged through the middle of the Hornet defense for 63 yards to the 3. He then took it the remainder on the next handoff to make it 42-35 with 1:06 to play.
Durossette hit Isom Smith for a short gain, then carried for 22 yards to the Grove 23. He then went for 13, and after a 5-yard penalty pushed it closer, took it in from the 5.
“They gave me the middle of the field on that long run and I took it to get us close,” Durossette said. “On the touchdown run I was looking for Brayson but he wasn’t open so I took it in.”
Then it was Lawson up the middle on a direct snap, and moments later, after the Hornets made the stop on the kickoff, he was on one knee, a moment of emotion for a junior who earlier this season lost his mom to cancer.
“This was all Mom,” he said. “Wild fourth quarter and I promise you it’s all heart.”
It was all defensive opportunism early.
Lawson opened the scoring with an 83-yard interception return, one of two Hilldale had in the first half. The other was by Jace Walker, a 40-yard return. Hilldale had applied the heat throughout the first half on Trimble, led by linebackers Darrin Hays and McWilliams along with nose tackle Watson Schiller.
“We just kept fighting. This team is a bunch of fighters and I just kept telling them that even as it got crazy in the end,” McWilliams said.
Jace Walker’s pick six had the Hornets up 21-7 at the half. His senior brother Dylan Walker the first of two touchdown receptions, a 48-yarder that was followed by a 79-yarder in the third quarter.
“They turned the ball over in the first half, we turned it over in the second half,” Blevins said. “If we want to keep moving forward, it’s great we’re in the quarterfinals, but our goal is being state champions, so we have to hold on to the football.”
Grove ended its season at 7-4.
HILLDALE 43, GROVE 42
Grove 7 0 14 21—42
Hilldale 7 14 7 15—43
Hil-Brayson Lawson 83 interception return (Jaxson Whittiker kick), 5:18.
Gro-Emmanuel Crawford 83 kickoff return (Nicholas Alsup kick), 5:01.
Hil-Dylan Walker 48 pass from Johnnie Durossette (Whittiker kick), 4:15
Hil-Jace Walker 40 interception return (Whittiker kick), 3:44.
Gro- Greg McCurdy 59 pass from Carson Trimble (Alsup kick), 11:27.
Hil-Dylan Walker 79 pass from Durossette (Whittiker kick), 7:22.
Gro-Jaydon Hill 6 pass from Trimble (Alsup kick), 1:10.
Gro- Crawford 2 run (Alsup kick), 8:40.
Gro-Kadian Forbis 41 pass from Trimble (Alsup kick), 7:17.
Hil-Jaden McWilliams 2 run (Whittiker kick), 1:25.
Gro-Kadian Forbis 3 yard run (Alsup kick), 1:06.
Hil-Durossette 5 run (Lawson run), 7.1.