Cardinal Ritter junior defensive back Lawrence McConnell is used to running as a track and field standout for the Lions.
McConnell runs the 100 and 200 meters on the track and showed his speed Saturday on the football field with a game-changing 97-yard interception return late in the first half that helped Ritter earn a 48-6 win over the Owensville Dutchmen in a Class 3 quarterfinal.
Still, 97 yards is a long ways to gallop.
"I admit I was getting tired after about 60 yards," McConnell said with a grin. “I had to keep going. I've never run 97 yards back before."
When he runs track, McConnell is not burdened with shoulder pads and other equipment.
"That adds up and I got a little tired," McConnell said. "But it was fun to score. They had some momentum there so that touchdown was big."
The Lions (7-6) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive season and will play next weekend at St. Pius X-Kansas City (11-1).
On third down, McConnell intercepted a pass at the 3-yard line from Owensville senior quarterback Brendan Decker and featured his track speed. McConnell zoomed down the field for the interception return and a 26-0 Lions lead at halftime.
"I was just in the right spot at the right time," McConnell said. "It was my moment and I took advantage of it.
“I was watching the quarterback's eyes there on the play and I saw the route the receiver was running. I just jumped it. After I caught it, I tried not to get caught."
Lions coach Brennan Spain said he thought that play cemented the win for his club.
"That was a huge momentum shifter," Spain said. "That was like a nail in the coffin for them. It really took the wind out of them. McConnell was where he was supposed to be and he made a big play."
Senior running back Artrell Miller finished with 149 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Lions, including one touchdown.
Including Miller, six players scored touchdowns for the Lions — including two for Jamorian Parker.
Owensville (9-3), which had its season ended by Ritter for a second consecutive year, was hampered turnovers.
The Dutchmen, who were in their first quarterfinal since 2016, lost two fumbles and were intercepted once. Cardinal Ritter turned two of those into two touchdowns in the first half.
"You have to give credit to Cardinal Ritter and their athletic ability," Owensville coach Nathan Cabot said. "They're a quick team. They got some takeaways early in the game and changed the tempo for us. But, you know, our guys never quit."