Sean Sample was relieved Nixa coach Rich Rehagen decided one overtime was enough Friday. The Eagles running back was just as content with Rehagen’s decision to have him run with the ball on what would be the game’s final play.
“When coach told me in the huddle he was going to put the game in my hands, I was happy about it,” Sample said. “I want to try to do everything I can for this team. I was glad he trusted me.”
Ultimately, Sample was stopped one yard short of the goal line on Nixa’s attempt for a two-point conversion at the end of a three-hour shootout. Parkview’s stop of Sample made for a sudden end to the Eagles’ 42-41 overtime loss in a Class 5 District 6 semifinal.
The consensus on the Nixa sideline before the two-point try was the Eagles were making the right call to go for the win, rather than settle for a second overtime with an extra-point kick.
Afterward, their opinion didn’t change, despite the outcome.
Running out of the ‘Wildcat,’ Sample gained two of the three yards he needed, but was brought to the turf a full yard short.
“We were having such a hard time stopping them. I didn’t want to watch them score in the next overtime and go for two and beat us,” Rehagen said. “I felt that was where the game was headed. We thought we’d beat them to the punch. I’d do it exactly the same way again.
“Shoot, he’s right there. He about got in.”
Nixa (3-7) had more players in the game on both sides of the ball than Parkview. The Eagles admitted the pace was catching up to them.
“I was definitely tired,” said Sample, who ran for three touchdowns and from his safety post picked off a pair of Parkview passes. “A bunch of our other guys going both ways were tired, too. We were dong a lot. This was a high-flying game. It was a shootout and we were running all over the field. So, I think obviously it was the right decision to go for two.”
“I stand by coach’s decision to go for two,” said wide receiver Lukas Roemen, who caught two touchdown passes. “I feel like none of us were going to be able to play another round of overtime.”
“I thought this could go on for a while,” added Logan Ayers, who doubled as a tight end and linebacker “But we were tired. We were laying it all on the line for our team, knowing this could be our last game.”
Initially, Nixa’s play-call for the two-point conversion attempt was for quarterback Reid Potts to pass to Ayers. After Parkview saw the Eagles were going for the win, they called for a timeout.
Rehagen responded by switching his play-call to a run by Sample.
“I was supposed to get the ball and was hoping to score,” Ayers said. “But we gave it to our running back. He’s done great things for us for three years. He’s one of the best players ever to come out of Nixa. We put it in his hands because he knows what to do with it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
“You put the ball in your best player’s hands,” Potts added. “You can’t feel bad about that.”
Sample saved his best for last. He rushed for a career-high 284 yards on 30 carries to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time. His season stat line as a senior reads 178 carries for 1,084 yards.
It was only three weeks ago Sample had a modest 647 yards rushing on the season through eight games. Over his final eight quarters, he ran for 437 yards.
Sample said reaching the 1,000-yard milestone was special, after he fell 20 yards short with 980 as a junior last season.
‘I’m glad I was finally able to get to it,” Sample said. “It hurt not to get it last year, so to get it this year means a lot.”
Sample outshone Parkview playmaker Blake Delacruz, who had 26 carries for 194 yards. Both Sample and Delacruz had rushing touchdowns in the first overtime.
They met after the game and shared congratulations.
“I’d never met him before,” Sample said. “He seems like a great kid and is a great running back. It was fun to play against them. I hope he has a good rest of the season and a great future.
“It got a little chippy out there tonight. But that’s part of the game,” Sample added about the teams’ back-and-forth banter. “At the end of the day, we’re all friends.”
The start of the night appeared as if Nixa would replay some of its lopsided losses from the regular season against the Central Ozark Conference's heavyweights. Parkview’s offense was rolling and the Vikings were up 21-7 in the second quarter.
Parkview (6-4) repeatedly converted on third- and even fourth-down seemingly at will with either a Delacruz run or a pass from quarterback Trevor Boice to an assortment of receivers.
“We were in a bad spot in the second quarter,” Rehagen said. “It didn’t look like it was going to be an overtime game. We were down 21-7 and it was their ball across mid-field. We were well on our way to getting blown out.”
Nixa’s defense finally got stops. Boice ended up throwing three interceptions and also gave up the ball on a fumble.
The Eagles not only got back into the game, but gained the lead.
After taking over at quarterback, Potts proceeded to throw for three touchdowns. He finished 9-of-14 passing for 101 yards.
“At the beginning of the game, I was definitely nervous,” Potts said. “Once I got a couple snaps under my belt I was good. My very first play I was in, we ran a pass play. It was incomplete. But I thought that was a good call by coach to get my confidence up.
“The line helped me out a ton and the receivers were running good routes,” Potts added. “They were making me look good all night.”
“He had an amazing game,” Roemen said of Potts. “I couldn’t have asked anything better from him. The coaching staff showed confidence in him and he deserved it. He’s proven he is capable of playing at this level.”
Roemen’s second touchdown catch with :03 remaining in the first half saw him run right over a Parkview cornerback on his way to the end zone.
“I didn’t know I could do that,” Roemen said. “That was fun.”
Nixa made it 21 straight points at the start of the third quarter, with Sample scoring on a nine-yard touchdown run. The Eagles were also up by seven, 35-28, on another nine-yard touchdown run by Sample with 3:20 to play in the third quarter.
Nixa had chances to make it a two-score game. But the Eagles turned the ball over twice while shut out in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings seemed well on their way to a winning score, before losing a fumble at the Nixa five-yard line with 1:19 remaining.
Both teams’ fumbles came with the ball not in the hands of either Sample or Delacruz.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Delacruz was strong from start to the finish. He scored in overtime on an 11-yard touchdown run.
“His feet are great,” Ayers said. “He’s small, but can take a big hit and stay up.”
Delacruz had the benefit of being able to catch his breath while Parkview’s defense was on the field during regulation. But he came in at linebacker in overtime and recorded two tackles, including the final stop of Sample.
Sample answered Delacruz’s touchdown in overtime with an eight-yard touchdown run out of the ‘Wildcat.’ He ran untouched behind the middle of Nixa’s offensive line.
On the two-point try, Sampled faked a hand-off to wideout Jared Spence, before again trying to score behind his interior linemen.
“I acted like I was going to get it to (Spence) and tried to get it up the middle,” Sample said. “It was the play we had just scored on. I guess they saw it coming.”
Heartbreak aside, the Eagles took consolation in their effort. Their 41 points was a season-high for an offense that struggled mightily much of the season.
“It’s very fulfilling knowing we just didn’t lay down,” Roemen said. “We fought for this game. I wish we would have come out with the win. But I’m proud of how hard we played.”
“This was a good opportunity for me and it was exciting to be in that scenario,” Potts said. “But we wanted to come out with a win for our seniors. I want to come back to this moment, only with a different outcome.”
Parkview 42, Eagles 41
Eagles 7 14 14 0 6 - 41
Parkview 14 7 7 7 7 - 42
P - Newburn 21 pass from Boice (Huddleston kick)
N - Wentz 8 pass from Potts (Anello kick)
P - Newburn 40 pass from Boice (Huddleston kick)
P - Newburn 28 pass from Delacruz (Huddleston kick)
N - Roemen 8 pass from Potts (Anello kick)
N - Roemen 31 pass from Potts (Anello kick)
N - Sample 9 run (Anello kick)
P - Huddleston 21 pass from Boice (Huddleston kick)
N - Sample 9 run (Anello kick)
P - Delacruz 12 run (Huddleston kick)
P - Delacruz 11 run (Huddleston kick)
N - Sample 8 run (run failed)
Rushing — Nixa: Sample 30-284; Parkview: Delacruz 26-194l Huddleston 13-76.
Passing — Nixa: Potts 9-14-101; Parkview: Boice 17-24-291.
Receiving — Nixa: Roemen 2-39; Parkview: Huddleston 4-66.