FENTON • The Kirkwood football team did it again.
The top-ranked and undefeated Pioneers needed a 29-yard field goal from kicker Andrew Phillips with 11.9 seconds remaining to defeat host Summit 33-31 in a Class 5 quarterfinal playoff game Saturday.
“I’ve been waiting all four years,” Phillips said of his first game-winner.
The No. 1 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings and ranked second in Class 5, Kirkwood (11-0) has made a habit of dramatic come-from-behind victories this season.
The Pioneers have now won four such games after also rallying against Hazelwood East on Sept. 2, Summit on Sept. 15 and against rival Webster Groves last Monday.
“We’re doing something right,” Kirkwood coach Matt Irvin said. “We’re more fortunate than we deserve to be. Our defense got a couple stops when they had to, and special teams played big today. I’m proud of how they finished.”
The Pioneers, who overcame a season-high four turnovers, advance to play at Parkway Central (11-1) in the semifinals on Friday. The Colts, who lost to Kirkwood 28-2 on Nov. 12, won at Camdenton 7-0 on Saturday.
Kirkwood trailed Summit 17-14 at halftime, but the teams were tied at 24-24 after three quarters.
The Pioneers scored first in the fourth quarter as Edward Richey returned a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown with 8:53 left, but Summit’s Eric Beisel blocked the point-after kick.
The Falcons (8-4) then took a 31-30 lead with 4:01 remaining when James Crockett found Luke Hartmann in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass against double coverage, and Ben Tesson kicked the extra point.
But Kirkwood answered with a scoring drive. Quarterback Jordan Bishop converted two fourth-and-short situations and one third-and-2 with runs to move into field goal position, before Phillips converted his second field goal of the second half and fourth of the season.
“He’s used to that kind of moment,” Irvin said. “He said, ‘Coach, no pressure.’ I didn’t say a word to him.”
Bishop completed 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, and ran 24 times for 121 yards. Ramon Alton rushed 19 times for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Crockett completed 16 of 30 passes for 193 yards, with two touchdown passes to Hartmann and one interception, one of three second-half turnovers for the Falcons. Ian McIntosh had 143 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 carries.
A Missouri linebacker recruit who missed the first meeting with Kirkwood, Beisel had 23 tackles, a 1-yard touchdown run, an interception and the blocked kick.
“We made enough plays to win, and unfortunately at the end there we came up short,” Summit coach Mike Bellers said. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
As the Kirkwood players walked off the field Saturday, they heard that both Lee’s Summit West and Staley had lost in the quarterfinals. Lee’s Summit West is the top-ranked team in Class 5, and Staley, which defeated the Pioneers in the Class 5 title game a year ago, is third.
Now Kirkwood is just one win away from returning to the Edward Jones Dome and one step closer to playing for the opportunity to capture that elusive first state championship.
“We’ve got that drive on the inside that this is our year,” said Matt Berry, an offensive/defensive lineman. “We’re not playing Turkey Day this year. Our varsity is not playing Turkey Day. We’ve got that drive. This is what this group of seniors has been talking about since we’ve been 8 years old. We’ve known since we were 8 years old that this is what we’re doing.
"We get to situations like this, you don’t see yourself losing. It’s nerve-wracking to say the least. It’s scary when it comes down to the field goal in high school football, because those are so erratic. It’s a good feeling. Man, it’s a good feeling.”