Running back Cedric Cooper had four touchdowns in his biggest performance of the year to help secure the win.
Skyline took a shot from Roosevelt on Friday night at Memorial Stadium — a bigger shot than most people probably expected.
But Skyline is a veteran group accustomed to digging in. And so when Roosevelt came out and played toe-to-toe with the Spartans into the third quarter, No. 1 Skyline (12-0) didn’t panic. Nor did the Spartans feel out of place.
They simply kept the course and earned a hard-earned 54-21 win against a gutsy Roosevelt (8-4) team.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” Skyline senior receiver Nic Sblendorio said. “We just expressed to everyone, ‘Don’t have any doubt in your mind right now because we’re going to come and win this.’ “
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Skyline and Roosevelt were tied at 14 at the half. Skyline scored the opening touchdown of the second half, but the Roughriders answered midway through the quarter. On 4th-and-6 from the Skyline 38, quarterback Austin Gunning hit Mitchell Bouldin for a 38-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21.
Skyline then rode the swift moves of running back Cedric Cooper. Cooper rushed for 195 yards and four touchdowns, including three in a 40-point second half.
“He’s as good as we’ve had at running back,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said. “He’s very special and such a weapon for us.”
Cooper proved to be Skyline’s biggest weapon, ripping off big run after big run in his best game of the year.
“He has the best balance I’ve ever seen,” Sblendorio said.
Skyline outscored Roosevelt 40-7 in the second half, including 33 straight points. But it was a dogfight through much of the first two-and-a-half quarters.
In a drive at the end of the first half, Roosevelt sacked quarterback Max Browne twice and forced him into intentional grounding on another occasion. Browne still put up impressive stats — 17 of 25 for 310 yards and four touchdowns — but Roosevelt kept him from ripping the game open in the first half.
But Skyline just had too many weapons. After the game, Roosevelt’s players jogged to their fans and raised their helmets, the final gesture of perhaps the area’s best feel-good story.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” Roosevelt coach Matt Nelsen said. “It’s a great group.”