Fourth-quarter heroics lead M-S to football victory

During the week of practice, Mahomet-Seymour football coach Keith Pogue knew his defense was going to have to come up big in order for the Bulldogs to defeat Mascoutah last Friday night at Frank Dutton Field.

"We've been preaching turnovers, turnovers, turnovers all week," Pogue said, "because they (Mascoutah's offensive players) are so explosive, we knew we had to do some things that made that (turnovers) happen."

His players answered the call.

The defense scored 14 early points to keep the Bulldogs in the game, but it was a late fourth-quarter offensive drive that helped M-S complete a dramatic 22-21 come-from-behind victory.

In the first quarter, after a couple successful running plays by the visiting Indians, Bulldog senior Lucas Morgan blocked Mascoutah's 22-yard field goal attempt.

Senior Tanner Kirts returned the kick 85 yards for the first score with 10 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first quarter.

The two-point run failed, leaving the score at 6-0.

The next series, the Indians drove the ball down the field with eight straight runs that put them third-and-goal from the 6-yard line with 7:20 left in the opening period.

Senior Josh Johnson stopped the drive when he intercepted a pass and sprinted down the sideline for a 94-yard touchdown return.

"Defense won the game," Pogue said. "We're not even in this game without those two great defensive plays.

"We stole one, and we're going to take it, because that's a pretty good ball club."

Junior Jordan Veldman ran in the PAT after Johnson's score, and the Bulldogs took a 14-0 lead with 7:04 left in the first quarter.

"We needed some good things to happen to give us confidence and really put us in this game and to give us a chance to win," Pogue said.

The Indians answered on the next possession with a 60-yard TD pass.

Their conversion kick was good, cutting the Bulldogs' lead to 14-7 with 6:18 left in the first.

After a Bulldog punt trapped the Indians on their own 1-yard line, Mascoutah drove the ball near midfield before scoring on a 51-yard touchdown pass to top off a 99-yard drive.

The kick tied the score 14-14 with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Indians took the lead with 2:48 left in the third quarter with a 65-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run.

After the PAT kick, the Indians held a 21-14 lead and the momentum.

The Bulldogs' offense struggled to move the ball, but the defense kept the team in the game by not allowing the Indians to put more points on the board.

The defense forced Mascoutah to punt with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter, but time was running out on the Bulldogs.

With help from a facemask penalty on the kick-off return, M-S started its fourth-quarter drive from its own 30-yard line.

But, like most of the night, the offense found it difficult to move the ball.

After a run for no gain and two incomplete passes, the Bulldogs lined up for a punt.

The punter, Dawson Finch — who is also the quarterback — stepped up and avoided the rush and chucked a pass to senior Michael Keller, who was tackled at the Indians' 24-yard line with just more than three minutes to play.

After a short run, an incomplete pass and a short quarterback scramble, the Bulldogs were again facing fourth down.

From the Indian 20-yard line with 2:19 left to play, Finch scrambled to his right and, before getting hammered, whipped the ball for a touchdown pass to Veldman with 2:11 left in the game.

Finch finished 8-for-18 passing for 81 yards.

"We struggled offensively all night," Pogue said. "They're very athletic, and they recover from a lot of things (defensively). But when we had to have it on fourth down, that was a great throw and a great catch."

M-S, without its starting kicker, went for its third two-point conversion of the night.

To take the lead, Finch handed the ball to Veldman, who ran to the outside — like the play he had scored the two-point conversion on earlier in the game — but this time, Veldman tossed the ball to Johnson for the conversion and 22-21 lead.

"The nice thing about that play is I actually called that play on the other two-point conversion we made, but they had it covered, so he ran it in," Pogue said. "So it's an option play and with those two athletes, it's really tough to cover."

The Bulldogs avoided any last-minute heroics by the Indians on the kickoff when in a scrum Tyler Kirts ripped the ball from the returner and recovered his own forced fumble with 2:04 left in the game.

The Bulldogs were able to run out the clock and improve their season record to 2-1 overall.

"I'm just proud of these kids. What a great effort," Pogue said. "What a great scheme coach (Steve) Kreps had, and the kids executed."

Nine Bulldogs recorded five or more total tackles.

Daunte Roberts had 17 total tackles and a sack to lead the Bulldogs, and senior Ryan Emmerd had nine total tackles.

Skyler O'Connor recorded two sacks and Tanner Kirts collected his third interception on the year.

Offensively, M-S' running game wound up with minus-6 yards on the ground (when sacks were included) while the passing game generated 88 yards.

Morgan ran the ball for 51 yards on 11 caries, and Veldman caught three passes for 22 yards.

By contrast, Mascoutah amassed 163 yards rushing and 178 through the air for 341 total yards.

MS, 1-0 in the Apollo Conference, is scheduled to re-enter league action Friday night when the team travels to Taylorville (2-1) for a 7 p.m. start.


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