LADUE — Farrell Shelton held up the deuce.
The Kirkwood football team had just scored a touchdown to bring it within one point of Ladue Friday night. Kirkwood's coach, Shelton wanted to go for the win.
So did his Pioneers.
Senior receiver Jay Maclin flipped the ball to junior receiver Cole Johnson who then tossed it to the open and waiting arms of quarterback Kannon Nesslage who fell into the end zone to convert the 2-point play and lift Kirkwood to an incredible 36-35 come-from-behind win at Ladue's Wightman Field.
“It was awesome we've been practicing it the past couple of weeks,” Nesslage said. “I was just making sure I'd catch it, get in the end zone and get the two points.”
Kirkwood (5-3) put an end to Ladue's 23-game win streak. Blair Oaks now holds the longest streak in the state at 24.
The Pioneers only found themselves in a position to win because of the speed and hands of junior linebacker Will Lee. The 6-foot-3 and 185-pounder powered through Ladue's offensive line and tipped a speed option pitch from quarterback Henry McIntosh. Lee got a mitt on the ball then was able to scoop it up and return it 33 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute and 26 seconds to play.
“I just saw the ball coming so I made sure I tipped it so I could get it,” Lee said. “It was amazing. I love the team, I love the guys. We practice so hard. I just love us.”
The No. 4 large school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings and top-rated team in the Class 4 Missouri Media poll, Ladue (8-1) led 35-14 when junior Marzion Crosby snagged an interception and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown with 10:06 to play. The Rams appeared to be headed toward a hard-fought win.
Kirkwood continued to grind. Nesslage connected on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 8:21. Senior Cameron Macon scored a 2-yard touchdown with 1:40.
Ladue was attempting to run out the clock when Lee turned the momentum.
“All week we talked about finish. We'd been in some games this year against some very good teams and we just didn't finish stuff,” Shelton said. “I'm very proud of them.”
Nesslage completed 23 of 42 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Maclin, a Missouri recruit, caught seven passes for 113 yards. Lee caught eight passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
McIntosh completed 15 of 32 passes for 323 yards and three long touchdowns. Senior receiver Mason Player caught five passes for 109 yards. Cosby had four catches for 62 yards.
Sophomore running back Jared Rhodes rushed for 104 yards on seven carries and scored on a sensational 94 yard scamper.
Ladue led 28-7 at halftime.
The Rams won last year's game at Kirkwood 34-21. Ladue used Kirkwood's stadium as its home away from home the last two years while its own was under construction.
“Hopefully this is a learning experience for us,” Ladue coach Mike Tarpey said. “This game doesn't define us, the next game defines us and hopefully the next few games define us and how we respond.”