Charged Up | Football overcomes 3-score deficit to defeat #2-ranked Smith Center, 40-38

Jacob Meseke | editor in chief

The Chargers upset the Smith Center Redmen, ranked #2 by KPreps in 1A, Friday, 40-38.

“I’m very proud of the players, they fought hard, battled back and won a tough game,” head coach Jess Rutledge said. 

The opening quarter was all Smith Center. The Redmen scored the first three touchdowns of the game. In the second quarter the Chargers got on the board with a 62-yard run by junior quarterback Wyatt Wurtz. 

“I was just running,” Wurtz said. 

The Chargers trailed 26-6 at halftime. 

“We needed to rally, execute, and do our jobs better,” said Rutledge.

The Chargers offense lines up against Smith Center. Quarterback Wurtz threw for 206 yards and ran for another 90 yards on offense. Photo by Payton Wurtz.

The Chargers opened the second half with a 76-yard kick return by Miguel Hernandez.

“I saw that the team made a good wall. When I found a gap I knew it would be a good opportunity to beat the defenders to the sideline with my speed. We needed to work with the clock, so getting points right away really boosted our momentum going into the half. It’s always hype to take one to the house,” Hernandez said. It was Hernandez’s third return TD of the season, following two punt returns against Northern Heights.

After forcing a three and out, the Chargers got the ball back and scored quickly on a 55-yard pass from Wurtz to senior Logan Clark. On that play, a Smith Center player threw a punch and was ejected. Smith Center got back on track and scored another touchdown to go up 32-18. 

“I was hyped, I had hope,” Clark said. 

The Chargers offense started the fourth quarter with a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Wurtz. The Chargers failed to convert the two-point conversion and still trailed, 32-24. 

Smith Center marched all the way down the field and scored to go up 38-24 with 5:55 left. “I knew we were still in this,” Wurtz said.

The Chargers answered with an 8-yard TD pass to senior Eli Oliver. The Chargers converted the PAT but still trailed 38-32.

Junior Tate Deever kicks an onside when the Chargers trailed 32-38 in the 4th quarter. The kick did not travel ten yards, but a Smith Center player made first contact and sophomore Parker Holthaus recovered the ball. Photo by Payton Wurtz.

The Chargers needed to recover an onside kick to keep their hopes alive. After the kick from junior Tate Deever only traveled a couple of yards, a Smith Center player touched the ball with his foot and sophomore Parker Holthaus recovered the ball. 

“I knew I had to get on it,” Holthaus said. 

The Chargers had 2:53 left to score. The Chargers tied it with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Wurtz, who flipped into the endzone. Wurtz hit Oliver on a slant for the two-point conversion, giving them their first lead, 40-38, with 1:11 left in the game. 

Wurtz intercepted a pass on the ensuing drive, but the Redmen still had three timeouts. The Chargers weren’t able to get a first down and had to punt. 

In the final series, the Chargers forced a turnover on downs. Wurtz took a knee for the last play and the Chargers completed the comeback and won 40-38. 

Wurtz threw for 206 yards and ran for another 90 yards on offense. Clark had 95 receiving yards and Oliver had 56 yards. Senior Bryton Reves and Deever led the team in tackles with 11. Senior Ryan Schutter had 2 sacks. 

The Chargers (3-1) will take a long bus ride Friday to Belleville to play Republic County. Republic County is currently 0-4, but has had many close games.

“We need to stay humble, stay hungry, eyes on the prize,” Rutledge said.

Pictured above: Assistant coach Mitchell Wertzberger and head coach Jess Rutledge celebrate after Wyatt Wurtz intercepts a pass in the 4th quarter September 23. The Chargers went on to win 40-38 over the Smith Center Redmen. Photo by Payton Wurtz.

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