In terms of stature, Nazareth quarterback Sam Poulos isn’t the biggest player on the Roadrunners’ roster. Still, stopping the 5-foot-9 signal-caller was far too tall an order for Cary-Grove in Nazareth’s 24-0 win in 6A playoffs on Saturday.
With the win, the Roadrunners advanced to the 6A quarterfinals where they’ll face Prairie Ridge.
Nazareth took charge on its first possession when Poulos hit receiver Aenaes White up the middle for a 56-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead.
Cary-Grove sputtered on offense, fumbling the ball four times within the first six minutes and five times in the first half – though they did recover them all. Quarterback Quinn Baker ran the ball with some success, but the Trojans failed to complete passes or get into Nazareth's territory in the first half.
Within the first minute of the second quarter Nazareth got within the Trojans' 36. After an eight-play drive, kicker Matt Ramsey scored a field goal to make it 10-0 to the Roadrunners, which held to halftime.
As the second half began, Nazareth’s methodical ground game kept a fatigued Cary-Grove defense on the field, with tailback Josh Moore carrying the ball 12 times in the third quarter. The Roadrunners finished off a 14-play drive when Sean Maloney plucked a Poulos pass deep in the end zone to make it 17-0 to Nazareth.
"Sammy put it in the perfect spot for me," Maloney said. "All I had to do was run my route and I could trust him."
Sam Poulos did it again as soon as Nazareth got the ball back. After a 16-yard run that put the Roadrunners on the Trojans' 4 yard line. Poulos, on third-and-short, found Kevin Curtain at the end of the red zone to make the score 24-0.
Things looked dodgy later in the fourth, however, as Cary-Grove turned it on. Baker gained both momentum and yardage with a 24-yard completion to John Pearl and a half dozen sneaks for 41 yards in the last period.
With six minutes left the Roadrunners’ defense dug in with a QB sack by James Holden and a pair of crucial stops by defensive back Joseph DiSimone.
The Trojans' slim hopes of catching up ended when Phil Gaspari grabbed the game's sole interception near the end of the quarter.
"All week long Coach has been telling us that most of the teams they've played have sit back and wait for them," said White, who also played a strong role on defense. "We knew if we'd attack, good things would happen."
• Player of the game: Poulos, whose cool demeanor and three touchdown passes won Nazareth the game.
• The game was over when: Nazareth captain Phil Gaspari picked off Baker's pass with less than two minutes to time.
• Stat of the game: Nazareth's workhorse Josh Moore picked up 146 yards on 32 carries, with help from a strong offensive line.
• Play of the game: Aeneas White's over-the-shoulder catch and 56-yard touchdown run to open Nazareth's early lead.
• Quote of the game: Center Jake Reynolds, who finished with a gash on his chin, "Everybody did their part. And we work really hard like this every game."
• What it means: Cary-grove exit the playoffs and Nazareth advances to challenge Prairie Ridge in the 6A quarterfinals.