ROLLA — It might have been a little closer than some would have expected, but the Lebanon Yellowjackets opened the 2012 high school football season on Friday with a 28-12 win at Rolla.
After going 2-8 a year ago, the Bulldogs were within 21-12 late in the fourth quarter before the ‘Jackets put on the finishing touches as sophomore Elza Evans scored for the 28-12 final with 3:30 remaining.
Senior running back Brock West rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns as the ‘Jackets totaled 382 yards of offense.
Lebanon (1-0) opened the game by failing to get off a punt deep in its own territory, giving Rolla possession at the Lebanon 19.
But the ‘Jacket defense forced a fourth-and-long and junior safety Dylan Bradshaw came up with an interception in the end zone and returned it to the Lebanon 31.
Seven plays later, senior running back Brock West scored the season’s first touchdown on a two-yard run.
Lebanon forced Rolla to punt on the Bulldogs’ second possession, and again LHS put together a long drive, this time starting at its own 25. West capped a 13-play drive with a touchdown run from three yards to give the ‘Jackets a promising 14-0 lead with 6:02 remaining in the second quarter.
“The offensive line was making big pulls all night, and it wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for them,” West said.
In a game that featured both a host of big plays and miscues, the biggest play of all — and the biggest miscue — might have occurred shortly before the end of the first half.
After the two teams followed West’s second score by trading punts, Rolla finally put together a drive, marching the ball from its own 35 to the Lebanon 14.
With 49 seconds remaining, Rolla quarterback Michael Steelman found tight end Jacob Banholzer, who raced 14 yards for an apparent touchdown.
But just as he was about to cross the goal line, Banholzer dropped the ball, and Lebanon sophomore Dylan Bradshaw was there to cover it up.
“That was my guy (Banholzer) and I didn’t cover him right,” Bradshaw said. “He fumbled the ball in the end zone so I just thought I would pick it up.”
Unfazed, Rolla opened the second half with a nine-play drive that started at its own 26 and was capped with a two-yard run by Tanner Cardin with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter.
After Rolla held Lebanon on offense on the following possession, the ‘Jackets again had problems in the punt game, this time hitting a short punt for just 14 yards in field position.
The play gave Rolla the ball at the LHS 36, but a holding penalty stalled the Bulldog momentum.
On fourth-and-long, Lebanon tipped a pass that went incomplete.
The ‘Jackets took over and went 64 yards on 12 plays for a score that was punched in by West on fourth-and-inches play.
The LHS defense forced a Rolla punt on the following possession, but the ‘Jackets gave it right back with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, and Rolla answered with a touchdown to pull within 21-12.
After missing an extra point kick following its first touchdown, Rolla went for two, but a halfback pass was knocked away by junior Austin Knight.
Lebanon then put the game away with a touchdown that started at its own 40 and ended with sophomore Elza Evans going seven yards for his first varsity touchdown.
“I was really pleased with our kids,” Christian said. “I thought we battled and played hard, and made a lot of plays.
“This was a good win, and I think as the year goes on, people are going to learn that Rolla is going to do some good things.”
Led by sophomore running back Andy Satulla, who gained 71 yards on 19 carries, the Bulldogs finished with 172 rushing yards on 42 carries.
Lebanon finished with 382 yards of total offense, while Rolla finished with 231 yards.
Brackett was 8-for-10 passing for 99 yards, while Michael Culp had five catches for 77 yards.
Lebanon will play its first home game of the season and its first contest on the new field turf on Friday when they host Waynesville. The contest is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. as the school will host a donors parade before the game.
“I can’t wait for our home opener next week against Waynesville,” Christian said. “What an electric atmosphere that is going to be.”