JOHNSTOWN — By his and his coach’s own admission, Roosevelt junior Keaton Kaiser made a couple tough mistakes Friday at Peterson Field.
But, when it mattered the most, Kaiser couldn’t have been any more perfect.
Kaiser hauled in the winning touchdown in overtime as the Rough Riders stunned top-ranked Mead 21-20.
After the Mavericks (1-1) won the coin toss at the start of overtime, and chose to begin the period on defense, Roosevelt senior quarterback Brig Hartson caught the Mead defense on its heels by zipping a pass near the left sideline to Kaiser for a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime.
“I just saw we were manned up, with safeties on me,” Kaiser said. “I faked in, I went out and got the touchdown. But, none of this is possible without the whole team. That was not me that won that. That is my whole team right there.”
Roosevelt came in ranked fifth in Class 3A by CHSAANow.com and improved to 2-0 with the statement-making 3A Northern Conference win.
The game certainly wasn’t without plenty of dramatic moments down the stretch, despite the Rough Riders maintaining a narrow lead for much of the night.
On the ensuing kickoff after Mead tied the game at 7 with 8 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter, Kaiser lost a fumble, which Mavericks junior Ben Marchbanks recovered at the Roosevelt 22-yard line.
Two plays later, though, Rough Riders junior Clayton Robinson picked off Mead junior quarterback Gavin Garrettson’s pass inside the 10-yard line to keep the game tied.
Playing cornerback, Kaiser also had a slip-up on defense that allowed the Mavericks to tie the game a second time — just after Roosevelt had gone up 14-7 — as Garrettson connected with junior Corby Tecufor for a 70-yard touchdown pass with 11:12 left.
But in the game’s most critical minutes, Kaiser and his Rough Riders teammates made those earlier mistakes a distance memory.
After Kaiser’s touchdown grab to kick off overtime, Mead also scored on its first offensive play of overtime. Senior Brayden Keys zig-zagged his way into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run to pull the Mavericks to within a point, 21-20.
Mead attempted a two-point conversion to win the game, but Roosevelt sophomore Anthony Munoz was the lead tackler on a crucial stop behind the line of scrimmage — as he was on several huge tackles for losses in crunch time — dropping Keys in the backfield to secure the win and send the Rough Riders and their sprinkling of fans in the stands into a frenzy.
Munoz and the entire Roosevelt defense was magnificent the entire night, holding Mead to just 20 points — 14 in regulation — after the Mavericks put up 49 in their season opener a week earlier.
“Our defense just doesn’t stop swinging,” Rough Riders coach Lane Wasinger said. “We had a lot of things go wrong tonight. We were very close all night long. Just one thing here or there — a missed assignment, or whatever it is. To get challenged like that on the 3-yard line to win a game — No. 1 versus No. 5 — and to see our defense step up makes me extremely proud.”
For good measure, Hartson also made history on a night in which Roosevelt established itself as one of the early season’s top contenders in 3A.
With a 20-yard first quarter touchdown strike to sophomore Tucker Peterson in the game’s opening minutes, Hartson tied Spencer Urban for the most career touchdown passes in Rough Riders history.
With a 3-yard touchdown pass to junior Jaden Herrera in the first four seconds of the fourth quarter, Hartson made the record all his own. It was the 21st touchdown pass of his high school career.
But an even more important pass was his 22nd touchdown pass — the one to Kaiser to seal the win against the state’s top-ranked team.
“This game means so much to me,” Hartson said. “Mead, I have not liked since the dawn of time. I’ve been born and bred Roosevelt. I’ve been taught to not like Mead. And, to finally win after four years of playing this (Mavericks) team means everything to me.”
MHS 0 0 7 7 6 — 20
RHS 7 0 0 7 7 — 21
Passing (comp.-att.-int.-TDs-yards) — MHS, Gavin Garrettson 6-18-1-1-189. RHS, Brig Hartson 18-30-2-3-129
Rushing (att.-yards) — MHS, Evan Morris 19-81 (TD); RHS, Keegan Sterkel 19-81 (TD)
Receiving (rec.-yards) — MHS, Corby Tecu 1-70 (TD); RHS, Jaden Herrera 6-52 (TD)
Bobby Fernandez covers high school sports for the Greeley Tribune. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez.