RICHMOND – The right foot of Nicholas Legnailoi carried Richmond-Burton to a halftime lead in Saturday’s Class 4A second-round playoff game between the Rockets and the Genoa-Kingston Cogs.
But it was the hands of the do-everything sophomore that helped the Rockets bust the game open in a 19-0 win that earned them a trip to the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Legnaioli’s 23-yard interception return for touchdown – a pick that came when the sophomore defensive back read the eyes of Genoa-Kingston’s Justin Peters on rollout pass to the left – gave Richmond-Burton a 13-0 lead on the third play of the third quarter. Later, Devin Bailey added an interception for the Rockets.
Legnailoi accounted for the Rockets’ first 13 points of the game, with two first-half field goals and the game-breaking interception in the third.
"I’m not surprised. He undercut it. He’s just a guy that has great aptitude, and he makes plays like that,” Richmond-Burton coach Mike Noll said. “It was a big play. That was the one. It was a backbreaker.”
Legnaioli booted two 22-yard field goals in the first half.
Michael Kaufman’s 57-yard rumble late in the third quarter effectively put the game away for the No. 3 seed Rockets.
Genoa-Kingston was able to push the ball down the field 42 yards on its first drive of the contest.
With G-K slowly moving the ball in small chunks, Richmond-Burton’s James Horner came up with a sack to force a downhill run-oriented Cogs team into a second-and-17 that G-K could not overcome.
“I liked how we were moving the ball, and we’d been talking about 3- to 4-yard chunks is what we needed, just continuing to get those first down, and we talked about it,” Genoa-Kingston coach Chad Wilmarth said. “We had some things that didn’t go our way and some missed opportunities, but that’s how football goes.”
While the Rockets gathered just one first down on their next drive, a Richmond-Burton punt placed G-K all the way at its own 1-yard line.
On the next play, James Horner recovered a fumble on the 10-yard line.
Legnaioli followed by kicking the first of his two 22-yard field goals.
The second of his field goals, in the waning seconds of the second quarter, came at the conclusion of a 12-play, 67-yard drive that was keyed by a 23-yard Tyler Anderson run and a 10-yard passing play that went to the 9-yard line from Jacob Huber to Jake Bassett, one of five receptions by Bassett for 49 yards.
By the time of Kaufman’s touchdown run, the win was all but assured for Richmond-Burton, as its defense kept G-K out of the red zone until the Cogs’ last possession of the game.
On that last possession, G-K moved the ball down the field thanks largely to a 22-yard pass from Hunter Zweifel to Logan Kribs. But Peters’ fourth-down throw to Nathan Nessler in the corner of the end zone was broken up by Payton Minzey.
“I just think we had to adjust to the speed of their offense,” Noll said. “They came out. They’re tough kids. They hit you. I think we struggled blocking them. They’re real quick on the [defensive] line.”
Noll was composed and steadfastly proud in the postgame huddle before the Cogs seniors had their chance to embrace one another and take in their final emotional moments on a high school gridiron as players.
“The hard part for me is once we’re all done here, we get to see all the kids in the locker room, and that’s where it really tugs at us coaches,” Wilmarth said.
By the numbers: Genoa-Kingston finished 8-3 for the second consecutive season after its second straight 7-2 regular season.
Neither squad moved the ball with particular efficiency, as the Rockets outgained the Cogs, 234-128.
Beyond the stats: The Rockets played physically between the tackles on their home turf. Richmond-Burton coach Mike Knoll said that his team made some tweaks with their defensive tackles to limit G-K’s ability to run off tackle.
They said it: “We talk about truly being a family and we do care about these guys, love our kids, and we make sure they know it. It has been a really fun ride,” said G-K coach Chad Wilmarth.
Up next: Richmond-Burton will play at Coal City (10-1) in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.