On Friday, the gamble came up craps.
Down 17-14 just under a minute into the fourth quarter, Goldenberg’s Colts tried to run a fake punt on a fourth-and-5 at their 40. Central senior quarterback and punter Patrick Dill took a pitch to the right side, looking downfield, he could not find an open receiver and was taken down for a loss.
Ladue took possession at the Central 39-yard line. Six plays, later defensive end/short yardage running back Cameron Meeks rumbled in for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Rams up 10 points and Ladue was rolling.
“Everything just changed to be honest,” Ladue senior quarterback Jordan Jackson said. “Everybody knew the game was over. Everybody on offense was just thinking hold the ball, don’t give them the ball and we’re gonna win the game.”
Meeks added a score in the fourth quarter and Ladue rolled to a 31-14 win over Central in a Class 4 semifinal Friday night at Parkway Central.
Ladue (12-2) advances to play in the Class 4 championship game next Saturday in Columbia at 7 p.m. The Rams will be making their second appearance in the state title game.
The win for vindication for the Rams, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2014 and 2016. “It’s great. I’ve been dreaming about doing this since sixth grade,” Jackson said. “It’s finally here and that’s I’m trying to do is get a ring and we’re not finished yet.”
Jackson threw for 131 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His first touchdown was a 71-yard catch and run to running back Andrew Hunt that put the Rams their first lead of the night.Hunt was a relentless presence in the run game for Ladue, running for 76 yards and banging on the Central defense throughout the night.
“He’s got a great feel for the game, He’s got great vision, he makes the decision and he goes with it,”Ladue coach Mike Tarpey said.
Hunt’s work on the ground along with Meeks two touchdowns and physical downhill running was a load that the Colts defense couldn’t hold up against.
“We’ve got a surplus of running backs,” Jackson said. I just love it. We’ve got a big running back, a fast running back, a quick running back and no matter what team we play we’ve always got a game plan for whatever it is.”
After the Colts went ahead on Tyler Holthaus field goals of 41 and 30 yards, Jackson put the Rams ahead on a beautiful 41-yard scoring strike to Reece Rode. The TD put Ladue in front 17-14 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
Central had its next drive ruined when the fake punt attempt imploded.
“I’m not going to apologize for it,” Goldenberg said. “They’ve been huge for us all year long and you’ve got to take a shot,” Goldenberg said. “They’re defense is pretty good, so we got to take a shot when we can. We hadn’t shown that and they had it defended.”
Parkway Central’s high-octane passing game led by Dill and top-shelf receivers Art Green and DeAndre Campbell, combined for a measly 28 yards receiving as the Rams defense kept them conspicuously quiet.
“They cushioned us and cushioned us and we tried to take it, they tackled well when we were underneath,” Goldenberg said.
Dill threw for just 112 yards through the air.
Colts senior running back Jayden Mitchell tied a career-high rushing with 99 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell scored on a 1-yard run and added a 2-point conversion to stake the Colts to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter.
Ladue’s defense never broke down despite three Central field goal drives.
For Parkway Central (12-2) it was a gut-wrenching end to a superb season that saw the Colts reach the semifinals in football, to go along with the recent state champion soccer team, and the basketball team which made the Final Four in March.
“It’s hard on a night like tonight to realize the accomplishment that Final Four is,” Goldenberg said. “Those are the things that get hung up in the gym and it’s a great accomplishment. This is an unbelievable group of kids and I’m going to miss these guys because they bought-in, they worked, and they did everything you asked. I’m really happy they got to be a part of this.”