Cascade wins with late FG to beat Auburn-Riverside

AUBURN — These are the things movies are made of.

The ending of the Cascade football team’s 31-28 victory over Auburn-Riverside in Friday night’s 4A Quad-District playoff game was every bit as good as the Bruins’ storyline that preceded it.

After two consecutive 0-10 seasons, Cascade turned to Joe Cronin to be its new football coach. Less than two years later, the Bruins are 9-1 and back in the state tournament for the first time since 2007.

“It’s awesome,” Cronin said. “I don’t even know what to say, I really don’t. It’s just a really cool experience to be at Cascade right now. These guys are just absolutely loving it. I couldn’t be happier for these guys, it’s awesome.

“We’re a family here and it just feels good to see these guys succeed,” Cronin added. “They gutted that out.”

With the ball on the Auburn-Riverside 15-yard-line and just six seconds to play in the game, Cronin gave his sophomore kicker Spencer Bowlden a chance to win the game. His 32-yard field goal sailed right down the middle of the uprights to give the Bruins a 31-28 lead with one second remaining.

“We knew if we were inside the 20, we were kicking it,” Cronin said. “I didn’t think I could handle overtime. My heart is not going to handle overtime. So make the thing.”

Despite his nerves, Bowlden did just that.

“I was really nervous,” he said. “But it was just like any other kick. I took a breath and exhaled when I kicked it. I thought was a good kick. It just looked good from the very first touch.”

The Bruins moved the ball down the field on the game’s first possession before the drive stalled on the Auburn-Riverside 27-yard-line. Quarterback Josh Smith overthrew an open Kaleb Dobson in end zone on a fourth-and-7 to turn the ball over to the Ravens.

It was one of the only mistakes Smith made in the game’s first 24 minutes.

After the Cascade defense forced a turnover on downs, the Bruins’ offense went back to work. Smith led a six-play, 60-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard quarterback keeper.

With a 7-0 lead, the Bruins’ defense continued to dominate, quickly forcing the Ravens to punt on their next possession.

The Bruins had the ball for just one play. Running back Malik Rackliff fumbled on his own 14-yard-line and the Ravens swarmed on the ball. It was just the break Auburn-Riverside needed, although it nearly failed to take advantage of it. After two runs that accounted for 4 yards and an incomplete pass by quarterback Kevin Thomson, the Ravens were faced with a fourth-and-6 from the Bruins’ 10-yard-line and elected to go for it. Thomson faked a handoff and ran to his left untouched for the Ravens’ first touchdown, tying the score at 7-7.

Cascade wasted little time answering. Smith connected with K.J. Brady, his receiver of choice in the first half, twice and the Bruins finished a five-play 80-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Rackliff to take a 14-7 lead.

Auburn-Riverside’s Joey Lucchesi scored on a 39-yard run late in the second quarter that appeared as though it would leave things tied at 14-14 going into the half, but the Bruins had other ideas.

On a second-and-11, Smith rolled to his right only to throw back to his left, hitting Rackliff on a screen. The junior running back did the rest, going 34 yards to give the Bruins a 21-14 lead at halftime.

Smith was 7-for-10 for 155 yards and a touchdown in the first half and also ran for 59 yards on eight carries. Six of Smith’s seven first-half completions went to K.J. Brady, who had 121 yards receiving by halftime.

“It was just absolutely incredible,” Cronin said. “For a while there he carried the team on his back and he just made plays tonight.”

Smith finished the game 13-for-21 for 241 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my teammates,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without the blocks for me. I do what I can. If I do something, we do it as a team.”

The Ravens drove down the field on the second half’s opening possession and quickly scored to tie the game at 21-21.

Smith fired back on Cascade’s next possession with a 30-yard touchdown run and the Bruins regained the lead at 28-21.

The Ravens tied the game early in the fourth quarter with another short touchdown run and the game would stay tied until Bowlden’s field goal with one second remaining.

Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at alommers@heraldnet.com.

At Auburn Memorial Stadium

Cascade 7 14 7 3 – 31

Auburn-Riverside 7 7 7 7 – 28

C–Josh Smith 1 run (Spencer Bowlden kick)

AR–Kevin Thomson 10 run (Brandon Starks kick)

C–Malik Rackliff 9 run (Bowlden kick)

AR–Joey Lucchesi 39 run (Starks kick)

C–Rackliff 34 pass from Smith (Bowlden kick)

AR–Cole Huckaby 2 run (Starks kick)

C–Smith 30 run (Bowlden kick)

AR–Joey Galeno 2 run (Starks kick)

C–Bowlden 32 FG

Records–Cascade 9-1, Auburn-Riverside 7-3.

At Auburn Memorial Stadium

Cascade 0 0 0 0 — 0

Auburn-Riverside 0 0 0 0 — 0

School—scoring player’s last name yardage type of play (extra point outcome)

School—scoring player’s last name yardage type of play (extra point outcome)

School—scoring player’s last name yardage type of play (extra point outcome)

Records—Cascade x-x overall. Auburn-Riverside x-x.

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