Times Sports Editor
CLINTON -- In a football game that had potential Western Indiana Conference title implications, the bout between Northview and South Vermillion had all the looks of a heavyweight championship bout.
South Vermillion overcame a 15-point second half deficit to knot the score in the fourth quarter, but the Knights rallied back to score a touchdown on the following drive and then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff with under three minutes to play to improve to 4-0 in the WIC and 6-1 overall.
When asked whether he felt like his team escaped with a victory on the road against the Wildcats, Northview coach George Gettle credited the Wildcats for a great game while praising his squad's resiliency.
"I don't know that we dodged one, I'll give (South Vermillion) credit, they are a good football team," Gettle said. "I don't think we played our best football game that's for sure, but when we needed it at the end we were able to put together a drive once they tied the game up and had all the momentum in the world we were able to drive the football down and score. We were able to get a turnover on special teams and were able to eat up the final three minutes left in the game. So I don't feel like we dodged one, they are a good football team, but we're a good football team too and the better football team won."
Trent Lancaster set the tone by rushing the ball three times for a total of 20 yards after being intercepted on the Knights' first drive of the contest. Facing a fourth-and-six play at the Wildcats' 23-yard line a pass interference call on the home squad put the Knights on the 12-yard line and Lancaster did the rest on a QB keeper for a 6-0 lead with 5:36 left in the quarter.
Turnovers were a problem for South Vermillion all night as its next drive was derailed at midfield as Walsh fumbled after an eight-yard run and Hunter Robertson recovered the ball.
Lancaster found Jon Bradshaw on a 12-yard pass and Lancaster and Damon Hyatt picked up double-digit yardage on the next two runs to set up a 14-yard pass to Zac Niehaus down to the two-yard line. From there, Hyatt finished the drive on a blast up the middle and the two-point conversion pass to Bradshaw was good for a 14-0 lead to end the period.
Robertson also halted the next Wildcats' drive, picking Walsh off at the 38-yard line on the first play of the series. However, Northview couldn't capitalize and punted, but Beau Judd recovered another fumble after South Vermillion strung together a 58-yard drive to the Knights' 25-yard line.
Again the Knights moved the ball into Wildcats territory at the 37-yard line and faced a fourth-and-15, but a fake punt went for no yardage. The play would come back to haunt the Knights as South Vermillion moved the ball 15 yards on a fullback run by Nick Alfke and Walsh scrambled to 13 more yards on the next two plays. On first down at Northview's 23-yard line, Walsh picked up another 18 yards on a run and Alfke capped the drive with a five-yard plunge to narrow the gap to 14-7 at the half.
Neither team moved the ball on their opening series of the second half, but the Knights strung together a 13-play drive that culminated on a fourth-and-three play from the five-yard line. Lancaster rolled out and found Drake Stevenson running to the corner for the TD reception. The two-point pass to Neihaus gave the Knights a 22-7 lead with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
South Vermillion wasn't going to go quietly and Walsh began to take over the game on the ground. Alfke and his back-up, Michael Thompson combined for 35 yards down to Northview's 14-yard line and Walsh did the rest, running for the TD to get within 22-14.
The Wildcats defense stopped the Knights on four plays and forced a punt and the offense took over at its own 38-yard line with 9:05 left in the game.
Walsh picked up six yards on the ground to start the drive and then another four on third-and-three for a first down. He ran for another eight yards on the next play before a pass interference call on the Knights moved the ball to Northview's 27-yard line. Alfke bulled forward for seven yards and Walsh gained one more to set up another third down play. This time Walsh got free for another four yards for a first down. Walsh added a 15-yard gallop to the Knights' five-yard line and two plays later Walsh scampered in for the TD. Trailing 22-20, Walsh hit Patrick Harpenau with the tying conversion pass with 4:21 left.
After the game, Gettle lamented his defense's inability to stop the Wildcats when it needed to the most.
"We weren't able to get off the field on third down most of the evening whether it was third-and-four, third-and-eight or third-and-12, we couldn't get off the field on third down," Gettle said. "That's been something we've been pretty good at this year. We feel like we made some mistakes tonight so we have some work to do."
Gettle was credited Walsh's management of his team's offense in rallying the Wildcats.
"He's a fine football player and we knew that coming in, obviously he didn't disappoint. He's their team leader, he's a great athlete and he has great command of their offense. I thought he played a great game," Gettle said.
With the game on the line, Northview got a short field on a nice kickoff return and started at its' own 46-yard line. Lancaster hit Stevenson for a 23-yard screen pass and then rambled seven yards on his own. Hyatt got the Knights to the 18-yard line on a six-yard run and Lancaster took the ball on the next play, hurdling a fallen defender and diving across the goal line for the go-ahead score on a drive that took just 1:24.
Northview's special teams took care of the rest as the kickoff went to the sideline where it was fumbled, then booted by a Wildcat and Andrew Butts pounced on the loose ball to return possession to the Knights.
Hyatt finished off the game, pounding out a first down on five carries for 20 yards with Lancaster stretching for a first down on fourth-and-two at the Wildcats' 12-yard line to clinch the game.
Northview returns home to face West Vigo in the final regular season home game at 7 p.m.
NV -- Trent Lancaster 12-yard run (pass failed), 5:36
NV -- Damon Hyatt two-yard run (Lancaster pass to Jon Bradshaw), 0:14
SV -- Nick Alfke five yard run (David Vaughn kick), 1:12
NV -- Lancaster five-yard pass to Drake Stevenson (Lancaster pass to Zac Niehaus), 1:50
SV -- Andy Walsh 14-yard run (Vaughn kick), 10:36
SV -- Walsh three-yard run (Walsh pass to Patrick Harpenau), 4:21
NV -- Lancaster 18-yard run (pass failed), 2:57
Rushing -- Nv 44-213 (Lancaster 28-148 2TD, Hyatt 12-44 TD, Stevenson 4-19); SV (Walsh 21-124 2TD, Alfke 13-62 TD, Hoggatt 3-4, Thompson 2-26).
Passing -- Nv (Trent Lancaster 7-17 85 yards, TD, 2 Int.), SV (Walsh 6-10 52 yards, 0 TD, 2 Int.).
Receiving -- Nv (Bradshaw 3-33, Niehaus 1-14, Stevenson 3-38 TD), SV (Harpenau 2-21, Mumaw 1-6, Laswell 1-11, Hoggatt 1-14).