Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Heights Can't Hang on Late in Loss to Emporia

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Heights Can't Hang on Late in Loss to Emporia

Article excerpt

Shawnee Heights sophomore Jordan Hoadley was in teammate Jayson Zuperku's arms on the sidelines.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, the ball didn't end up in the arms of Zach Cummings on the field.

Cummings, the T-Birds' do-it-all wide receiver and defensive back, couldn't hang on to a would-be go-ahead 42-yard touchdown reception in the final seconds of Heights' home game Friday night against Emporia, Heights couldn't convert a game-ending fourth-and-goal play from the 4-yard-line as time expired, and the Spartans escaped with a 19-14 victory in the regular-season finale.

Heights quarterback Mitchell Lady slightly overthrew the wide-open Cummings on the play, but the wideout hauled the pass in before tumbling into the end zone and losing control. Hoadley, a wide receiver, and Zuperku, an offensive lineman, represented the jubilation-turned-disappointment on the T-Bird sideline as the sophomore duo quickly halted their premature celebration.

"There's so many plays in a game. You can't dwell on one play," Heights coach Jason Swift later said of the missed Lady-to-Cummings connection. "The first play of the game was a kickoff return. There's your story, too."

The game's final play saw an under-duress Lady pitch the ball back near the sideline to running back Dane Terry, who lost control of the ball and fell on it well short of the goal line. The contest was over.

Terry, a senior, and several Heights (6-2, 5-1 Centennial League) teammates were face down on the turf as Emporia (4-4, 3-3) players stormed the field in celebration.

Swift said the play was designed to give Lady the run opportunity with a second option.

"We just wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best runner," Swift said. "It was a run option and it just didn't work, but our kids fought the whole way through."

The Spartans, who struggled on offense for the first three quarters, put on a clinic on their eighth drive to take a 19-14 advantage with 6:19 to play.

Emporia marched down the field with six first downs on the series, converting a pair of third downs and a fourth-and-7 from the Heights 17-yard-line. Quarterback Jace Stewart hit sophomore Beau Baumgardner on an 8-yard completion on the fourth-down attempt to set up first-and-goal, and Stewart's 9-yard scoring scamper on the next play to give the Spartans, who failed on the two-point run attempt, the five-point lead.

Looking to respond, the T-Birds went three-and-out on their ensuing drive but the Heights defense -- boosted by a third-down sack by Terry -- forced its own three-and-out and set its offense up at the Emporia 48 with 2:41 to play, but the drive would came up short.

"Just a great game," Swift said. "I think on both sides, you saw a lot of people play hard tonight."

The Spartans took a 7-0 lead into the break despite posting just 65 yards of total offense in half.

Emporia senior Sawyer Slayden took the game's opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to post the only scoring play of the first half, while Heights fumbled away the ensuing kickoff to give the Spartans possession deep in T-Bird territory. …

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