by Jason Herd
For the Pharos-Tribune
Losing never feels good, even when you do a lot good things in a football game. Two evenly matched conference foes met on a crisp fall evening in Fulton, vying for that middle spot in the Midwest Conference final standings.
Tri-County mirrors Caston in many ways. Both teams have scored victories over common opponents, Frontier and South Newton. The Cavaliers pummeled a then 1-6 Clinton Prairie squad on Oct. 4 for their third win of the season. Both teams have given up loads of points this season: 293 for the Cavaliers and 297 for Caston.
Despite racking up a season-high 426 rushing yards, the Comets stalled on their final drive deep in Cavalier territory and were defeated 28-27.
Both teams looked hungry at the start, as the first period was chewed up by their respective opening drives. Caston (2-7, 2-5 MWC) blazed down the field behind an inspired effort by their often lamented offensive line. Consecutive first down runs by Quentin Douglass, Jake Kingery and Conner Martin put the Comets at the Cavalier 33 just minutes into the quarter. Martin sprung free and darted into the end zone from 6 yards out at the 6:35 mark. His own extra point kick sailed through the uprights, and Caston led 7-0.
Tri-County (4-5, 3-4) answered with its own solid drive. Sophomore quarterback Blake Justice carried the load all night, dancing through Comet tacklers. He scored from 15 yards out at the 3:16 mark of the first. The conversion put the Cavaliers up 8-7.
Keeping with their recent commitment offensively, the Comets kept it on the ground. Martin led Caston on another charge downfield, as he carried for gains of 23 and 11 yards. Douglass found his fellow senior [Martin] on a shuffle pass that netted 10 more yards to the Tri-County 19. The drive culminated with Martin’s leaping 6 yard touchdown run with 9:56 left in the second. Caston converted the 2 point attempt, and went back up 15-8. Martin finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cavaliers’ next score came ironically after Caston’s best defensive stand to that point. On third-and-long, Justice fired a pass from the Caston 40 into a crowd of home jerseys. A seemingly well covered defensive effort ended with the ball being tipped right into the hands of senior Kyle Miller in the end zone with 7:24 left in the half. Kingery shut down the conversion attempt, and the Comets clung to a 15-14 lead at half.
With continued success on the edges, Douglass began shouldering the offense in the second half. He broke free for 35 yards to the Cavalier 30, then for 15 more to the 3. His 3-yard touchdown run at the 7:15 mark of the third extended Caston’s lead to 21-14. Douglass finished with 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tri-County was forced to throw after the Comet defense stiffened, led by junior Ryan Coffing. But, Justice hit Miller for a first down on third-and-12, which opened the door once again. Sophomore Trenton Kyburz found paydirt from 5 yards out to draw Tri-County to within 21-20.
Sophomore Brayton Jellison broke free for a 25-yard gain, setting up Douglass’ best run of the night. The senior quarterback bolted through the right side 55 yards for the score with 5:14 left in the game. Head coach Chris Ulerick opted to seal the win with a 2-point try, which failed as the Cavaliers stacked up Kingery in the backfield.
Tri-County proceeded to move right down the field, as Justice gave Comet tacklers fits by picking up chunks of yards. With Comet defenders undoubtedly keying on him, the young quarterback found Brendan Kidd streaking down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Kyburz dove into the end zone for the conversion, and suddenly Tri-County had regained the lead at 28-27 with 3:07 to go.
Martin and Douglass looked poised to lead Caston to the winning score, as the senior duo traded big runs to the Cavalier 13. But Tri-County tackled Douglass 1-yard short of the sticks on fourth down.
These teams will meet in Fulton again next Friday in the opening round of Sectional 42.