Despite an early lead, football Panthers fall to Rockhurst 28-9 in state title game

Jennifer Dirnbeck photo

Jennifer Dirnbeck photo

By STEPHEN GLOVER

Despite taking a 9-7 lead at halftime, the Mehlville Senior High School football team gave up 21 points in the second half Friday night in a 28-9 loss to Rockhurst in the Missouri Class 6 championship game.

“We thought that they were beatable and we had a shot at winning the game,” Mehlville head coach Gary Heyde said. “But you can’t make many if any mistakes against a team like Rockhurst.”

Throughout the first three quarters, the Panthers (10-3, 6-1 Suburban West) held their own against Rockhurst (13-0), which is ranked No. 12 in the nation, according to the National Football League’s high-school Web site — nflhs.com.

Mehlville jumped all over the Hawklets in the first quarter with a sack of Rockhurst quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase at the one-yard line. Rockhurst proceeded to snap the ball out of the end zone during the punt, which gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead with 3 minutes left in the first quarter.

“We felt that we needed to get more pressure on their quarterback and we ended up sacking him on the one-yard line,” Heyde said. “When they went to punt, they snapped the ball out of the end zone.”

But Rockhurst bounced back in the second quarter with a 69-yard punt return by Sal Belfonte to give the Hawklets a 7-2 lead.

The Panthers regained the lead with 3:17 left in the first half when quarterback Alexis Reedus connected with Justin Carter on a 67-yard touchdown pass to give Mehlville a 9-7 advantage.

“Justin beat his man and Alexis made a good pass to him,” Heyde said. “We could have gone up 9-0 after that play, but that punt return killed us.”

Reedus completed three of 12 passes for 127 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also carried the ball 10 times for 18 yards in the loss to Rockhurst.

“Alexis played well on both sides of the ball and I thought that they had good pressure on him,” Heyde said. “He had to move a lot and scramble, but he made some nice passes.”

Rockhurst took a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter on running back Drew Temple’s 15-yard touchdown run. He carried the ball 15 times for 179 yards.

The Hawklets extended their lead to 21-9 when Scheelhaase hit Keith Langtry for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter. Scheelhaase completed six of 12 passes for 85 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He recorded five receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown.

The game’s final touchdown came late in the fourth quarter when Temple busted out a 63-yard run.

Despite Friday’s loss, Heyde believes his returning Panthers could provide a recipe for success in 2008.

“There’s some good players coming back, but there’s also some spots to fill,” he said. “It’s all about how hard you work in the off-season, because you have to use the off-season to make yourself a better athlete.”