PORTLAND – All things considered, it appeared as if Grant's football team was running into a buzzsaw in a first-place showdown at Roosevelt on Friday night.
The Generals were missing 12 players due to COVID issues and injuries, including eight defensive starters. And the Roughriders, coming off a big win over Jefferson, were torqued with momentum and hungry to beat Grant for the first time since 2000.
But the Generals (5-3, 5-0) refused to buckle, circling their ranks and gutting out a 42-41 double-overtime win over Roosevelt (5-2, 3-1) that puts them in the driver's seat in the Portland Interscholastic League race.
“It took a lot of preparation this week,” Grant senior running back Jae'Sean Pete said. “We're missing a lot of our brothers, so we wanted to come out here and get a win for them.
“When the fourth quarter and overtime hit, the pride just took us over the top. We knew we could get this win. We just had to lean on each other, lean on our brothers.”
The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Pete was the catalyst, running for 122 yards and three touchdowns and returning a kickoff 77 yards for a score. He also had an interception in the end zone on Roosevelt's two-point conversion attempt on the first series of the second overtime.
“Best running back in the state,” Grant junior quarterback Kellen Segel said of Pete, who has rushed for 723 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. “He's been doing it all season. He's a dog. He's a legit dude.”
Pete's six-yard touchdown run drew Grant even at 41-41 in the second overtime, and junior Oliver Thake added the extra point to give the Generals their 13th consecutive win over the Roughriders.
“It was a grind,” Segel said. “We just had to get it done. We had to get the win for the city championship. We knew it was going to be tough, but we knew we could also win. We felt like we were the better team, even with guys out. And we got the job done.”
Generals coach John Beck praised his players and coaches for rising to the challenge.
“I'm so proud of our kids for their resiliency and finding a way to win,” Beck said. “You know, being shorthanded, no excuses, no one said anything. All the coaches that played at Grant, they said, 'Expectations don't change. We're going to go in and play, and we're expecting to win. Period, end of story.'”
Grant stands alone in first place ahead of Roosevelt and Jefferson (4-3, 3-1). The Generals, who have a nonleague game against Barlow next week, can win the league title outright by beating Jefferson in the regular-season finale Oct. 29 at the Marshall Campus.
For a while Friday, though, it looked as though the Roughriders would claim city bragging rights. They rallied from a 21-7, first-half deficit to lead 27-21 when senior Lindell Betts ran for a 2-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Grant pulled even at 27-27 on a 15-yard touchdown run by Pete midway through the fourth quarter, but Betts answered with his own 15-yard scoring run, and when he ran in the two-point conversion, Roosevelt led 35-27 with 2:47 left.
“We talked about adversity all week. What would we do through adversity?” Pete said. “We knew there were going to be ups and downs.”
The Generals answered with a clutch touchdown drive. Segel finished it with a one-yard dive, then ran for the two-point conversion to make it 35-35 with 30 seconds to go.
In the first overtime, Grant failed to score on the opening series, leaving the door open for the Roughriders. But on Roosevelt's first play, Betts fumbled and Grant senior Jordan Baker recovered, sending the game to a second overtime.
Roosevelt quarterback Imarion Kelly opened the second overtime with a two-yard touchdown run for a 41-35 lead, but Pete intercepted Kelly in the end zone on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, setting up Grant's winning possession.
Beck tipped his cap to Roosevelt, which had a 409-341 edge in total yards.
“Roosevelt wanted it,” Beck said. “I felt bad for them. They are awesome kids. But we just had to win. That's the way it goes.”
Betts was sensational, rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Kelly completed 10 of 20 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns – six yards to junior MyQuis Fesser and 53 yards to senior Demarius Branch – and he ran for 73 yards and a score on 11 carries.
“I think Lindell and Imarion are awesome,” Beck said. “They're not just really good football players and athletes, they're really good kids. We respect and think the world of those guys. They're ballers.”
The Roughriders took the loss hard, in particular Betts and Kelly. They sat on the Roosevelt bench long after the game ended.
“It's tough losing this game,” Betts said. “This team is like our Kryptonite. I thought we had them where we wanted them tonight. They couldn't stop us offensively, but we've got to do a better job defensively. I thought we should've had that game won in the fourth quarter.
“We didn't finish our job tonight. We've got to finish games like this when we're up.”
Grant rushed for 204 yards. Segel completed 13 of 26 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Senior Max von Arx had five catches for 50 yards and one touchdown.