Rochester ends Carterville’s perfect season

Darren Kinnard

CARTERVILLE — The Carterville Lions saw their perfect season come to an end at home Saturday in the 4A Quarterfinals at the hands of perennial state power Rochester. The Rockets built a 34-7 lead at the half and held on for a 41-28 win.

The Lions will look back and see several missed opportunities.

Carterville piled up 500 yards of offense, but four empty trips into Rochester territory turned out to be the difference. The Lions made it inside the Rockets’ 25 three times, including twice inside the 10, only to come away with no points. Two turnovers and two more turnovers on downs were too much to overcome.

Rochester took full advantage in the second quarter, breaking the game open with 20 consecutive points.

The Lions tried to mount a rally in the second half. Andrew Hellriegel and Peyton Bittle connected for a pair of touchdown passes, and Bryce Smith’s second TD run of the afternoon pulled Carterville within 41-28 with 3:04 to play. The Rockets recovered the onside kick attempt and then ran out the clock.

Smith finished with 198 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. Bittle caught 13 passes for 181 yards and two scores. Hellriegel finished 24-42 passing for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rochester quarterback Keeton Reiss was 11-18 for 202 yards passing with two TDs. He also ran for more than 100 yards with another touchdown.

The Lions finish their season 11-1. The Rockets advance to the semifinals where they will face Sacred Heart Griffin, who handed them only loss way back in the first week of the season.