The North Crawford football team survived their biggest challenge of the season on Friday night as they beat a tough Kickapoo-LaFarge team 16-0 on the road.
The victory kept the Trojans undefeated season alive and improved their conference record to 4-0 and their overall record to 7-0.
How close was the game with the Predators last Friday?
Let’s just say it was too close for comfort as far as the Trojans were concerned. The game was still up for grabs late in the fourth quarter with North Crawford clinging to an 8-0 lead.
As he had at the end of the first half, senior defensive back Tyler Olson shut down a Predator scoring drive by intercepting the ball in the end zone. Yes, it was that close.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Trojans drew blood late in the second quarter on a 29-yard run by fullback Jeremy File. Running back Jacob Salmon ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 just before halftime.
It was back and forth for the whole game,” Trojan head coach Brandon Munson said later. “We definitely left some opportunities on the field.”
In the first quarter after a long run by quarterback Hank Schellhorn put them on the Kickapoo-LaFarge 15-yard line. The Trojan offense was unable to come away with a score. Similarly, in the first half a long pass from Schellhorn to Jacob Salmon slipped off the receiver’s fingertips on what probably was destined to be a touchdown pass if it was caught.
The Trojans had another chance midway through the fourth quarter when the Predator punter had trouble handling the snap and was tackled for a loss at the Kickapoo-LaFarge 15-yardline. However, North Crawford fumbled the ball and another scoring opportunity slipped away.
Munson was quick to credit the Panthers for a well-played game.
“They scouted and game-planned very well,” Munson said of Kickapoo-LaFarge.
The result was limiting Trojan running back to just 76 yards. That’s quite an accomplishment considering Baumeister is averaging well over 200 yards per game this season.
The Panthers were able to limit the prolific Trojan running back by assigning a linebacker to ‘spy’ on Baumeister, following him on every play and using quicker defensive linemen to catch him from behind.
With some adjustments at halftime, the Trojans were able to counter some of the effort to stop Baumeister. Munson noted the running back was able to run for 11 and 12 yard gains and lots of five-yard gains.
The team’s leading rusher was quarterback Hank Schellhorn, who gained 100 yards on eight carries for 12.5 yard per carry average.
“It wasn’t like we were getting nothing on the ground,” Munson explained. “We’d have a positive play or two and then we’d get tackled for a loss.
“I give all the credit in the world to Kickapoo,” Munson said. “They played a good game to slow down our potent offense.”
However, Munson and others had plenty of praise for the Trojan defense that held the Panthers scoreless.
“We relied on the defense and they came through,” Munson said. Despite the fact that defensive coordinator Eric Hady was hospitalized last Tuesday with what was diagnosed as viral encephalitis or maybe because of it, the defense definitely rose to the occasion.
“The boys stepped up and played well,” Munson said of the team’s defensive effort.
The defense was led in tackles by Nick Gillespie with seven solos tackles Zach Stluka with six solo tackles and Cody Hershberger with six solo tackles. However, right behind those three were the rest of the defense with 24 more solo tackles and nine more assisted tackles. Then, there were the turnovers. Olson intercepted two passes in the end zone and Eric Friar recovered a fumble on the Predators 15-yardline.
Nevertheless the coach acknowledged the game hung in the balance right down to the last two minutes.
“It was a tough one,” Munson said.
“We didn’t have the luxury of just running through it, like we did in the first six games.
It was a tight game and we weren’t used to it basically. I told the team this is what we’ll see every week in the playoffs and when we struggle with moving the ball we’ll have to rely on our defense.”
The final two games of the regular season will be played at North Crawford starting with a non-conference game this Friday night against Benton-Scales Mound. The game might be a bit of a mismatch was the 7-0 Trojans host the 0-7 Braves.
Despite believing North Crawford should be able to handle the visitors from Benton-Scales Mound, coach Munson is sticking to his strategy of never paying attention to the opponents’ record. Nevertheless, Munson couldn’t help a peak past the Benton-Scales Mound game at the final game of the regular season against conference foe DeSoto.
Because DeSoto lost to Weston earlier this season, North Crawford undefeated in conference paly is assured of at least a tie for first place in the Ridge and Valley Conference even if they were to lose to the Pirates next week. However, the undefeated Trojans are in no mood to share the conference title with the Pirates or anybody else.
“Hopefully, we’ll be going into the game against DeSoto with an 8-0 record and then beating them for an undefeated season,” Munson said. “I’m not sure that’s ever been done here before.”
If the Trojans were lucky enough to win the next two games their 9-0 record would give them the number one seed going into the playoffs.
“We worked hard to get here,” Munson said of the 2013 Trojan football team he coaches. “As of last week we were ranked number seven in the state in our division. The team takes a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished and they definitely want to go undefeated for the season.”
Incidentally, DeSoto (4-3 overall and 4-1 conference) must finish the season on the road facing the Predators at Kickapoo—LaFarge this Friday and then the Trojans at North Crawford next Friday in the final game of the season.