ROY — In last year’s Shield Game, then-sophomore Roy running back Izzy Gordon broke out for 163 rushing yards on 13 carries and then suffered ruptured ligaments in his ankle and missed the rest of what looked to be a promising season. He watched his teammates celebrate with The Shield trophy on Weber’s home field.
The recovery was complicated. Some days, he has feeling in his left foot and other days he can feel the pain from the surgery and a complicated recovery that, at one point, made him consider quitting football.
A year later on his home field, Gordon smiled while posing for pictures on the Roy High track, holding The Shield trophy with quarterback Jaxson Dart after the Royals’ roller-coaster 44-30 win Friday over the visiting Warriors.
“I guess I came in with a killer instinct because last year when I got hurt and missed the rest of my season, I felt like I got stripped away of an opportunity to prove to people what I can do ... so I came in with a little extra fire tonight to do good,” Gordon said.
Gordon, who has also dealt with a broken clavicle and been in a car crash, delivered the game’s knockout punch late in the fourth quarter with a first-play, 57-yard touchdown run that gave the Royals (6-3, 5-2 Region 1) their final scoreline.
Vitally, it came after Weber had closed Roy’s 20-point lead to just seven with two fast fourth-quarter scores.
The win ensured an eighth win in the last nine Shield Games for Roy and meant Weber didn’t get its hands on the Region 1 trophy, which it was poised to share with Syracuse had the Warriors won.
“We just dug ourselves a big hole and when you play a great team like Roy who’s well-coached and who’s going to prepare for every situation, you can’t fall behind,” Weber coach Jayson Anderson said.
The turning point came early in the second quarter of a 10-10 game.
Weber (6-3, 5-2 Region 1) scored earlier on a short Luke Johnson field goal and had just scored on a Logan Payne touchdown run to tie it up before Cannon DeVries intercepted Dart to give the Warriors the ball deep in Roy territory.
But the Royals forced a Johnson field goal, which went wide.
Dart then found Cade Harris for an 80-yard touchdown pass — Harris’ second of the night — on the first play of the drive and what was about to be a 13-10 Weber lead was instead a 17-10 Roy lead.
“Huge. And (offensive coordinator Luke) Hobbs said they were jumping all the short (routes), (Harris) double-moved him on a wheel route and, honestly, Jaxson threw a damn dime 60 yards in the air and Cade caught it in stride. That was a thing of beauty,” Roy coach Fred Fernandes said.
Ryan Miller recovered a fumble for Roy and the Royals’ offense embarked on a 12-play, 59-yard drive that chewed 6:17 off the clock, resulting in a 2-yard Jaden Harris touchdown run to make it 24-10.
Weber quarterback Kohl Hogan ran for a 28-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 24-17 and Roy went on another long drive. This one was 12 plays, 80 yards and ended with a short TD run by Gordon.
The lead went to 37-17 early in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard Dillan Thoms TD run with 9:11 left after a McQuade Andrade interception set the Royals up nicely.
It looked for all the world like the game was wrapped in a bow, but if Region 1 has taught anyone anything this year, it was that a lot could happen in 9 minutes, 11 seconds.
A lot did happen.
Hogan ran for an 11-yard touchdown, Weber recovered an onside kick, then Hogan hit Spencer Hall for a 10-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 37-30 with 4:46 left.
That’s when Gordon answered on the first play of Roy’s next drive with a 57-yard rushing TD.
Harris then intercepted Hogan — one of three picks for the Roy defense and four turnovers forced overall — on Weber’s final drive.
It capped a fantastic game for Gordon, who had 73 rushing yards in the first quarter alone and eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the third time in six games played.
Now both teams wait until Oct. 19 when the UHSAA releases the 6A football all-comers state tournament bracket, seeded this year on an RPI formula.
Weber was ranked 11th and Roy was 14th coming into the week. With the win, the Royals are all but assured of a home playoff game in the first round (the top 16 have home playoff games).
Weber, meanwhile, will have to wait and see how the numbers align. As the hit Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers song opined in 1981, the waiting is the hardest part.