AURORA - Linebackers are known for bruising hits, not having good hands -- hence why they play defense.
Even with both thumbs heavily wrapped, Regis Jesuit’s Joseph Bozeman couldn’t botch what proved to be a fortuitous bounce for himself and the Raiders.
Bozeman scooped up a Gateway fumble on the first possession of the third quarter and returned it 32 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown as No. 20 Regis Jesuit slipped past No. 13 Gateway in a Class 5A first round game at Aurora Public Schools Stadium, 15-14.
“I didn’t even think about (the touchdown) until after I scored and I was like `oh, that actually happened’,” Bozeman said.
Bozeman and the Raiders (5-5) advance to the round of 16 where they will host No. 4 Valor Christian (8-2), a 52-6 victor over Legacy. The game will be Nov. 9 at Lou Kellogg Field.
Turnovers proved too costly for Gateway (7-3). After scoring late in third quarter to draw within a point (the two-point conversion try failed), the Olympians looked poised to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but fumbled the ball away on the Regis Jesuit 2-yard line.
Gateway had one last crack at victory with 4 minutes, 12 seconds to play and took the ball from its own 12-yard line all the way down to the Raiders’ 30-yard line. The drive ultimately stalled there, though, and Regis Jesuit was finally able to celebrate when Gateway quarterback Tate Johnson’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
“We’ve played tough teams all year long,” Bozeman said. “We knew we could come in here and do it.”
Regis Jesuit coach Mark Nolan was happy for his kids to be advancing to the next round.
“This game was really a microcosm of our season,” Nolan said. “Our kids fought out there. I’m really proud of our players and coaches.”
He was also excited that his stout defense was the ultimate difference-maker.
“Our defense scored a touchdown. That was the difference in the game,” Nolan said. “We came out on the right side of the turnover margin. Gateway is a really good, well-coached team. The game was very physical, and that’s what we expected it to be.”
Regis Jesuit put the game’s first points on the board as quarterback Matt Houghtaling hooked up with John Schmidt on a 22-yard pass, but Gateway answered back with a 6-yard touchdown run by Tory Adams and the two teams entered halftime tied at 8-8.