North Vermillion hosted the Seeger Patriots in a 1A Sectional 47 football semifinal in a game that, on paper prior to the contest, appeared to be a likely win for the Falcons.
The hosts ended up getting the “W” by the score of 35-14, but it was not as easy the statistics might have predicted.
Just two weeks earlier, North Vermillion had defeated Seeger in the final regular season game by the score of 47-12 on the Patriots’ home field, but the Falcons had to play Riverton Parke in the sectional opener last week while their opponents were idle with a bye.
Given the fact that Seeger had just seen just seen the Falcons and had two weeks to prepare compared to just one for North Vermillion may have helped make the game closer than in their previous meeting.
North Vermillion got the ball to start the game and almost broke the opening kickoff return for a touchdown, but it took four more plays before the Falcons crossed the goal line to take a 7-0 lead on a run by quarterback Brennan Ellis and an extra point by Carter Edney with only 90 seconds gone in the game.
Seeger responded with a 13-play possession – often using runs by Ethan Lasley before he was hurt on the drive – that moved the ball from their own 45 (thanks to a good kickoff return by Juan Stultz) to the Falcon 17 where the team faced a fourth-and-eight.
After a Patriot timeout, the team returned to the field and tried a pass inside the ten that Jonathan Kilgore picked off and returned about 93 yards for a touchdown that made the score 13-0.
Once again, Seeger got the ball and began to move down field, using passes from Greyson Green to Tristan Bahrns and Khal Stephen along with some quarterback runs to score in 13 plays that used over five minutes of the clock.
That drive made it 13-7 on the scoreboard as Stephen scored on a 5-yard pass play and then kicked the extra point.
North Vermillion began to use runs by Ellis, Wyatt Reynolds and Christian Myers to march into Patriot territory, but their drive stalled when they threw an incomplete fourth-down pass.
With just a few minutes remaining the in half, Seeger got the ball back on their own 13 and ran the ball twice with Green for a total of five yards before they went to the air.
That move backfired as Kilgore picked off his second pass of the night, this one also good for a touchdown, for a 19-7 score.
Seeger had one more possession, but time ran out shortly after they crossed midfield.
Herb King, the Patriot head coach, commented as he ran off the field, saying, “We should be winning this game. We’re playing better than they are, but we’re turning it over.”
His team got the ball to start the third quarter and, thanks to a big return by Stephen, started on the Falcon 48.
Two plays later, Green ran in from 44 yards out to make it 19-14 after Stephen kicked the extra point – all this with just 47 seconds gone in the period.
North Vermillion tried to pick up the pace offensively when they got the ball back.
Falcon head coach Brian Crabtree gave credit to his coaching counterpart for why his offense struggled in the first half.
“Herb [King] brought the stall game to the conference and used it so well we only got two-and-a-half possessions in the first half and never found our rhythm out there,” Crabtree explained. “In football, you really need to find a rhythm and we didn’t until the second half.”
The Falcons did speed up the game on their first possession of the third quarter, but despite some good running and a 21-yard pass from Ellis to Lucas Cook, a holding call and an incompletion on fourth down turned the ball back over to Seeger on downs.
For the first time in the game, Seeger went 3-and-out and punted with the Falcons getting excellent field position due to a shanked punt.
Cook ran for four yards and then Myers broke free for 31 to score to make it 25-14 and then 27-14 on an Ellis two-point run that reached the end zone.
The next Patriot possession was a duplicate of their previous - three plays and a punt - and once again the Falcons got the ball in the Seeger half of the field.
This time the hosts could not score and Seeger got the ball once again as the third quarter drew to an end.
The Patriots could not convert a fourth-and-eleven, getting only six yards on a completion and they gave the ball right back to their hosts.
Having the 27-14 lead, Seeger now copied the Patriot playbook and took as much time off the clock as they could by running the ball.
First Kilgore, then Reynolds, then Cook and Myers before Ellis finally got away from the Seeger defenders for a 37-yard touchdown run that made it 35-14 when Reynolds converted the two-point try.
Seeger had two more possessions but the first ended in a punt and the second when the clock hit zeros, so the final score was 35-14.
King said he thought his team played “pretty well” and “they were impassioned out there,” but then added, “We made too many mistakes. We responded well and had a great attitude, but it was too many mistakes.”
Crabtree said he liked how his team played in the second half despite picking up some injuries to three or four key players.
He then pointed out that getting Reynolds eligible to play (after transferring from Covington) helps his team.
“He gives us some speed in the backfield,” Crabtree said. “Christian Myers is more of a fullback for us, but Reynolds gives us a tailback.”
It also meant that the Falcons did not have to use Ellis as much as a runner and with the injuries picked up by his team, Crabtree was happy that his backfield came out of the game intact.