Fort Zumwalt North senior kicker Matt Bennick has had a couple of dreams about kicking a game-winning field goal to help his team get to a state championship game but never expected it to happen.
That dream became reality on Saturday afternoon as Bennick’s second field goal, a 27-yarder as time ran out, lifted the Panthers to an amazing 28-25 victory over Battle in a Class 5 semifinal game at Fort Zumwalt North High School.
Zumwalt North (12-1) which had its playoff run stopped by the Spartans in the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons, will face Vianney for the Class 5 title next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Plaster Field on the Missouri State University Campus in Springfield.
“I couldn’t do it without the whole team, it was a whole team effort,” said Bennick, who also hit a 31-yard field goal to give the Panthers their first lead of the day. “All I did was my job. I had a couple of dreams about it happening but it did so, thank god.”
Bennick’s game winning kick may not have even been a possibility, if not for the heroics of Panthers quarterback Cade Brister and running back Deiondre Stockton.
Brister fired a 46-yard desperation heave that Stockton somehow plucked out of the air in a crowd and brought down at the Battle 9.
“There was nothing else I wanted more,” Stockton said. “I saw the ball in the air and I went up and got it,”
“The line just set us up, set me a good pocket and I just stepped us, let my receiver get a chance and Deiondre Stockton made the play of the game for sure,” Brister said.
After Bennick’s first field goal gave the Panthers the early lead, Battle responded on a 4-yard Brevinn Tyler touchdown pass to Matt Page for an 8-3 lead with 11:27 left in the second quarter.
Just before the half, Zumwalt North pulled back ahead thanks to a 27-yard Brister to Vernell Rue scoring pass. Brister scored on the 2 point conversion run to make it 11-3 at the half.
Kahleb Adams kicked a 33-yard field goal to knot it at 11-11 with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers answered on the next drive as Brister scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on a 1-yard run.
Late in the third quarter, Battle came storming back as Hunter Smith capped a drive with a three-yard run off left tackle to make it 18-17. The two-point try failed.
North rolled back down the field early in the fourth stanza and Brister, who picked up most of the yardage on the drive, scored his second touchdown run of the afternoon on a 1-yard dive for a 25-17 edge.
Battle was not quite done as the Spartans came back one more time. Smith scored on a 4-yard run with just 31 second left and ran in the two-point conversion to tie it 25-25.
That set the stage for the Panthers dramatic final drive.
On third down from near midfield, Brister, under duress, found Stockton down the field for the 46-yard miracle pass good to the Spartans 9.
Then with one second left, Bennick’s second field goal sent the overflow Zumwalt North crowd into absolute pandemonium.
“Pretty crazy game, both sides laid it all out on the line and we went toe to toe with them the last two years and we were just a little bit better than them this year,” Zumwalt North coach Joe Bacon said. “It pretty awesome and it’s another step that we have been trying to take for a long time.”
Battle had its the season ended at 12-1.