What did Saturday’s independent school football rivalry between Roanoke Catholic and North Cross not deliver?
There was a standing-room-only crowd that ringed North Cross’ Willis Field.
One team scored 22 points in the first half.
The other team came back with 22 in the second half.
There were injuries, penalties, fourth-down heroics and even a fumble that a lineman picked up and ran into the end zone for a game-tying two-point conversion.
Ultimately, one final remarkable play ended it as Roanoke Catholic quarterback Bryant Guilfoyle scored on a tackle-breaking 10-yard run to give the Celtics a 30-22 victory — their first win over North Cross since 2007.
“It’s a sweet one,” Catholic coach Bob Price said after watching his team pile up 302 rushing yards. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Celtics (8-0) jumped to a 22-0 halftime lead before North Cross scored three second-half touchdowns and tied the game with 6:57 left in the fourth quarter.
However, Catholic never allowed the home team another offensive snap.
The Celtics mounted a 16-play, 64-yard drive, converting three fourth downs with the help of a defensive holding penalty against North Cross after a fourth-and-7 pass fell incomplete.
Finally, Catholic faced second-and-goal from its 10 with 15.2 seconds on the clock.
Guilfoyle rolled to his right, cut up the middle and appeared to be stopped near the 3-yard line. However, the 6-foot-2, 191-pound QB kept driving and got a push from behind, landing in the end zone for the winning TD with 5.5 seconds to play.
“We called a bootleg so I rolled out, but I didn’t see anyone open,” Guilfoyle said. “There was a small hole so I just decided to see if I could find my way into the end zone.
“Luckily, when I made contact with someone, someone propelled me from behind and I was able to reach out and get in there. It was close, for sure.”
Price said the play was not designed to set up a potential game-winning field goal. Place-kicker Hampton Bender missed the PAT following Catholic’s third TD that put the Celtics up 22-0 late in the first half.
“We were looking to score,” Price said. “[But] that wasn’t exactly how I would have drafted it.”
Price, who runs a construction company as his full-time job, could not have drawn up a better blueprint for a first half.
Catholic scored a TD on three of its first-half possessions, runs of 1 and 3 yards by Mykah English and a 40-yard sprint by freshman Kawuan Ray for a 22-0 halftime lead.
Meanwhile, a defense led by junior tackle James Carpenter and sophomore linebacker Jacob Elliott held North Cross to 70 yards in the first half, including a meager 20 yards rushing on 12 carries.
“We knew our assignments,” Carpenter said. “We knew if everyone played 100 percent, we knew we could stop them.”
Neither team was 100 percent physically by game’s end.
Linemen Davin Hansen and Tiger Xu and top running back Isaac Harris watched the game in street clothes for North Cross.
Carpenter left the game late in the first half with concussion symptoms, and North Cross coach Stephen Alexander sensed an opening.
“James Carpenter was the best player on the field,” Alexander said. “The best player on the field goes down, what do you do?”
North Cross immediately found holes in the middle of Catholic’s defense as running back Tyler Slash picked up 102 of his game-high 106 rushing yards after halftime.
The Raiders cut the lead to 22-7 on a 5-yard run by quarterback Maurice Garrison, then Garrison hit Nariq Bailey on a 45-yard TD pass to make it 22-14 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
North Cross tied it on its only fourth-quarter possession as a leaping Zae Baines shook off tight coverage to haul in a 37-yard, fourth-down throw from Garrison.
The Celtics went for the two-point conversion, but Garrison was stuffed. He fumbled, and 310-pound North Cross lineman Bennett Dorton picked up the ball and lumbered into the end zone to tie the game.
If Price was sweating, none of his players noticed.
“He’s good about that,” Guilfoyle said. “They scored 22 straight and it’s not looking good.”
Guilfoyle missed Catholic’s first fourth-quarter possession after he was shaken up. Backup quarterback Adrian Whorley was injured after a hard hit in his short stint, so Guilfoyle was behind center on the Celtics’ final drive.
Catholic used running plays by English, Ray, fullback A.J. Bennett, Sean Grande and Paul Kuehler along with a key 12-yard pass from Guilfoyle to Ray on third-and-13 to march within the shadow of the west end zone.
North Cross (5-2) appeared to halt the drive, but the Raiders were flagged for defensive holding on fourth-and-7 after an incomplete pass with 31.5 seconds left.
The Celtics had just enough time for Guilfoyle’s heroics.
When North Cross was unable to pull off a miracle kickoff return, joyous Catholic students flooded the newly dedicated Willis Field playing surface.
“It’s a huge weight off our shoulders,” Guilfoyle said. “They’re a great team.”
Roanoke Catholic opted out of the crosstown rivalry for several years, agreeing to resume relations in 2016.
The Celtics won the VIS Division III title last fall while North Cross was the Division II runner-up, adding more spice to Saturday’s game.
“They’re a physical bunch,” Alexander said. “We came out and couldn’t move the ball on offense. They’re tough.”
Roanoke Catholic 8 14 0 8 — 30
North Cross 0 0 14 8 — 22
RC — English 1 run (English pass from Guilfoyle)
RC — English 3 run (Pyle pass from Guilfoyle)
RC — Ray 40 run (kick failed)
NC — Garrison 5 run (McGinn kick)
NC — Bailey 45 pass from Garrison (McGinn kick)
NC — Baines 37 pass from Garrison (Dorton run with fumble)
RC — Guilfoyle 10 run (Bennett run)
First downs 18 12
Rushes-yards 58-302 27-147
Passing yards 21 143
Comp-Att-Int 2-5-0 7-14-2
Fumbles-lost 4-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 12-107 9-73
Punts-Avg. 2-40.5 2-36.0
RUSHING — Roanoke Catholic, English 23-93, Bennett 12-85, Ray 7-68, Grande 8-51, Kuehler 2-6, Whorley 1-2, Guilfoyle 5-(-3). North Cross, Slash 15-106, Baines 2-29, Garrison 10-12.
PASSING — Roanoke Catholic, Guilfoyle 2-3-0-21, Whorley 0-1-0-0, English 0-1-0-0. North Cross, Garrison 7-14-2-143.
RECEIVING — Roanoke Catholic, Ray 1-12, Waller 1-9. North Cross, Baines 5-87, Roanoke Catholic 2-56.