By Andy Todor
Friday night was a night of firsts for the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders in their Division II, Region 5 playoff game against Howland High at InfoCision Stadium.
TraVon Chapman completed 28 of 47 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Rough Riders to a 30-21 victory over unbeaten Howland for the first postseason victory in school history.
“I’m 65 years old. I’m all right,” said Ken Roosevelt (10-1) coach John Nemec. “The kids are excited, the town is excited, and I’m just happy for the kids.”
The key for the Rough Riders and Chapman was to not change what had been working all season.
“He’s a great player,” said Nemec of Chapman. “He didn’t do anything differently tonight than he’s been doing for the last 11 games.”
Chapman lead the Rough Riders on a five-play, 76-yard drive in 1 minute, 33 seconds to start the game, connecting on a 55-yard pass to Richard Graves to give Kent Roosevelt an early 7-0 lead.
“We knew offensively we had to keep doing what we did all year,” said Chapman. “When it comes down to it, it’s a team effort.”
Howland coach Dick Angle was impressed with Chapman.
“Their offense did a great job,” said Angle. “[Chapman] played perfect. They’re going to make a great run because they’re an awful good football team.”
Howland (9-1) took its first drive to the Rough Riders’ 22-yard line, but failed to connect on a 29-yard field goal.
The Tigers did score on their second possession on De’Veon Smith’s 29-yard touchdown run.
Smith ended the night with 28 carries for 245 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the season with 2,142 yards.
Kent Roosevelt opened the second quarter with a 3-yard run by Shakeel Howard that took just 1:36 off the clock.
Then receiver Troy Britt caught a 76-yard pass from Chapman on the next possession, giving the Rough Riders a 21-7 lead.
Howland’s next possession prove costly. The Tigers moved the ball 42 yards without an issue, until the Rough Riders were able to strip Smith and recover the fumble.
“We had a missed opportunity in the first half,” said Angle of the turnover. “I don’t think we’ve had a turnover in seven weeks.”
Smith opened the second half with a 10-yard run for a touchdown, cutting the lead by 21-13 after a missed extra point attempt.
Another Kent Roosevelt first came in the third quarter — the team’s first field goal of the season, by Jose Rocha. His 28-yard kick gave the Rough Riders a 24-13 advantage.
“Jose is very good, and we trusted him to get one in for us,” said Nemec.
Smith scored Howland’s last points of the night, scoring from 3 yards out later in the third quarter.
Chapman sealed the deal for Kent Roosevelt, scoring the only points in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run.
We didn’t finish in the first half,” added Angle. “We put ourselves in a position to take the game over in the second half. In a game like this, you have to win the turnover battle, and we lost by one.”
The Rough Riders advance to play Walsh Jesuit (9-1) in a regional semifinal on Nov. 11. The site of the game will be announced on Sunday.