Red Devils lose close Homecoming game to Fergus

Monday, September 30, 2019
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DCHS senior runs the ball during the game against Fergus Friday night as his brother Basil, a junior, blocks Golden Eagle players.

It was a tight, back-and-forth contest Friday night at the Oakland Athletic Complex, and for a moment, it looked like the Dawson County Red Devils would get their first win on the field of the season against the Fergus County Golden Eagles. But a blown coverage in the Red Devils’ secondary on a third-and-long play with just over a minute to go in the game resulted in a wide open Fergus receiver who grabbed a 40-yard touchdown pass for the visitors, and the Golden Eagles stole out of town with a 23-19 win, leaving the Red Devils and their fans heartbroken and dejected on homecoming night.

The game was decided in the fourth quarter in a wild series of events that did not fail to entertain, even if the end result was less than what the DCHS side had hoped for.

The fourth quarter started badly for the Red Devils. Trailing by a score of 15-13 when the quarter began, the Red Devils had the ball deep in their own territory following an interception of the Golden Eagles by Kade Hellman. A pair of 10-yard penalties after taking over at their own 33 on the interception had pushed the DCHS offense back towards their own goalline. Facing a third-and-30, the snap went into the ground at quarterback Parker Buckley’s feet -—one of several bad snaps on the game that cost the Red Devils dearly — and Fergus recovered the fumble at the DCHS 6 yard line.

What followed was a tough stand by the DCHS defense, helped along by a veritable avalanche of penalties on the Fergus possession. A total of seven penalties were called against both teams during the possession, but the bulk of them went against the Golden Eagles, with the end result being a turnover on downs after quarterback Seth Norslien’s pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-goal from the 15.

DCHS was unable to move the ball after taking over, punting back to Fergus, who were themselves promptly shuttled off the field with a three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, the play of the night for the Red Devils occurred, bringing the fans to their feet and hopes of victory.

The punt hit the ground and bounced back towards the DCHS goalline. In a bold move, with defenders all around him, Red Devils punt returner Jacoby Mattern scooped up the bouncing ball at his own 10, somehow managed to avoid the Golden Eagles defenders in his face, and then picked up a few good blocks from his teammates as he headed down the left sideline with a caravan of blockers to clear the way. The result was a thrilling 90-yard punt return for a touchdown, with the gassed Mattern almost stumble-falling into the endzone as his teammates and fans went wild.

Another bad snap doomed the two-point conversion attempt, but the Red Devils now held a 19-15 lead with just 3:40 left in the game and victory seemed within their grasp.

The Golden Eagles started at their own 38 after the kickoff and managed to very slowly move the ball forward. The first big mistake by the Red Devils’ defense came with Fergus facing third-and-1 near midfield. When a bungled substitution left DCHS in danger of being called for too many men on the field, the team called timeout, but the problem was they had no timeouts left. That resulted in a five-yard penalty and a fresh set of downs for Fergus.

Following that, the Golden Eagles went backwards the next couple of plays as the clock ticked down to near a minute of game time left. And then, facing third-and-13 from the DCHS 40, the DCHS defense, which had played tough all night, lost their mental focus. Senior Golden Eagles wideout Carson Weeden streaked right past everyone in the secondary and Norslien easily found his wide-open teammate for the 40-yard touchdown strike with 1:10 remaining in the game. Fergus got the two-point try, giving them a 23-19 lead.

DCHS had one last chance, helped out by the fact that the Golden Eagles were called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the two-point try, which forced them to kickoff from farther back, giving the Red Devils decent field possession, though they were out of timeouts. The Red Devils did manage to cross midfield, but desperate, needing a touchdown and running out of time, Buckley threw up a jump ball in Mattern’s direction which the Fergus defender picked off, putting the game to an end.

The teams had gone into halftime tied at 7-7. Fergus took the ball first to open the game and methodically moved down the field, culminating in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Norslien to Seth Sanders, staking the Golden Eagles to an early 7-0 lead.

The Red Devils finally answered later in the second quarter when, on a fourth-and-seven play from the Fergus 21, Buckley hit Kade Hellman up the seam for a beautifully executed pass-and-catch for the score.

Things went a bit sideways for DCHS coming out of the half. Forced to punt from the shadow of their own endzone on the first possession of the half, one of those bad snaps that plagued the Red Devils all night went sailing over the head of punter Matt Dufner and into his own endzone. Dufner managed to cover the ball before the Golden Eagles could, but the result was a gift safety for Fergus just after the half had started.

The Golden Eagles used the opportunity after receiving the free kick off the safety to increase their lead. Norslien would hit freshman Geyser Arndt on the drive for a 15-yard touchdown pass. The extra point went wide, giving the Golden Eagles a 15-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

The Red Devils answered following an interception by DCHS defender Riley Basta put their offense back in business. Sharp passing by Buckley and tough running by Nelson Crisafulli got DCHS to first-and-goal, and then Crisafulli plunged in from two yards out for his first touchdown of the season. The two-point attempt went wanting, leaving Fergus with a 15-13 lead with just over three minutes left in the third quarter and setting up the drama that followed.

The Red Devils were able to find some success in their passing game Friday night. Buckley finished with 17-of-29 passing for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Hellman had three receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown and Mattern also hauled in three passes for 78 yards. Buckley also spread the ball around a lot, as seven other Red Devils had at least one reception.

The DCHS running game, however, continues to struggle to get untracked. Crisafulli finished with 11 carries for just 16 yards, though he did have the touchdown run. Brodie Eckert led all DCHS rushers with three carries for 20 yards.

For the Golden Eagles, Norslien finished with 14 completions on 29 passes for 157 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Fergus running back Keaton Potter had 44 yards on 12 carries while Weeden hauled in four passes for 52 yards and the game-winning score.

The Red Devils (1-4) will travel to archrival Sidney next Friday still seeking their first on-the-field win of the season. Sidney (2-2), is coming off their bye week.