Glenelg senior Chris Retzbach lived every kicker’s dream Friday night.
Facing rival Howard in the 62nd edition of the Elgard Trophy game, Retzbach made a 26-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Gladiators to a 10-7 home victory.
The left-footed swing was never in doubt. Teammates rushed the field and mobbed him to celebrate his second career game-winning kick.
“It’s pretty nice,” a straightforward Retzbach said. “Yeah, I like it.”
First-year Glenelg coach Tim Cullen said he was “100 percent confident” in his kicker with the game on the line.
“He was good from 40 (yards) in pregame into the wind,” he said. “He’s a great kicker and we’re going to take advantage of that as much as we can. ... He’s so resilient because being a kicker, you kind of only get noticed when you mess up.”
Senior Drew Sotka (3 receptions, 32 yards), who set up the game-winning score with an interception and return to the Lions’ 25 in the final two minutes, said he never doubted his teammate would come through.
“I was more worried about our blocking than Chris making it,” he said.
This Elgard Trophy game will be remembered for its fourth-quarter mayhem. Tied at 7, Howard held possession with less than three minutes to play when Curtis Eley’s third-down handoff to Alex Rebaza (19 carries for 89 yards) on a trick play was fumbled and lost from its own 30.
Two plays later, Glenelg (2-0 county, 3-2 overall) gave it right back. Running back Kyle Dry (27 carries for 82 yards), who scored on a 15-yard run early in the third quarter, lost the ball and the Lions recovered at the 20 with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining.
The Gladiators, however, had one takeaway left in them. A 36-yard pass from quarterback Connor Hawkins to Eley gave the Lions life at the Glenelg 44, but on first and 10 Hawkins scrambled and forced a throw in the middle of the field. Sotka intercepted it, dodged several defenders and went deep into Howard territory.
“They got a couple big plays on us, and I don’t know, it’s all about like just picking your teammates up because I knew we’d be able to finish it,” Sotka said.
“This team loves each other. They pick each other up,” Cullen said.
Three short runs and a penalty later, Glenelg snapped it from the 9, and Retzbach’s left foot ended it.
It’s the first time since 2010-11 that the Gladiators have won back-to-back Elgard Trophy games, and it’s the lowest scoring game in the rivalry in at least 14 years.
“That was unbelievable. It was just the kids making plays,” Cullen said. “I don’t think either side made any special calls. Their kids took over, made some plays, and we fortunately answered.”
Howard (1-1, 1-4) had the best chance to score in a scoreless first half but couldn’t convert despite having first and goal at the 2. A 1-yard run, 0-yard completion and a 2-yard loss led to a fourth-down incompletion.
Glenelg put together a patented Gladiators scoring drive to start the third quarter. They converted three third-downs and a fourth down during a 15-play, 70-yard possession that Dry capped with his longest run of the game.
Rebaza, who was Howard’s MVP, nearly scored on the next drive for Howard. His 37-yard run from the 38 was fumbled near the goal line, and Glenelg pounced on it in the end zone for a touchback.
Rebaza got a touchdown two drives later. Rebaza’s 28-yard reception on third and 6 put the Lions in the red zone, and he fought his way into the end zone two plays later on a 3-yard run to get Howard on the board early in the fourth quarter. The late turnovers ultimately did the Lions in.
“Instant classic. Epic,” Howard coach Ross Hannon said. “We played hard but it’s a 48 minute game, not 47 minutes. There’s some growing pains when you’re young. We’re going to learn from this and move on.”
Howard has now lost four straight games after beating Reservoir in Week 1, while Glenelg snapped a two-game losing skid.
Glenelg 10, Howard 7
G — 0 0 7 3 — 10
Ho — 0 0 0 7 — 7
G: Kyle Dry 15-yard run, Chris Retzbach kick [7-0]
Ho: Alex Rebaza 3-yard run, Camren Kovach kick [7-7]
G: Retzback 26-yard field goal [10-7]