By Sue Moore
“It was a great game,” Coach Tom Marchese said after the excitement of winning with only 58 seconds left on the clock in the Friday night Halloween thriller over Three Rivers. A missed extra point by the Wildcats ended the game at 14-13 for a Vicksburg hard-earned victory.
The Bulldogs played stellar defense to stop Three Rivers’ running back and quarterback who had burned them with slicing runs and good passing in their first meeting during regular season play. This time, Vicksburg’s interior line didn’t let up, allowing very few long gains, with a grinding it out style of play on an evening with wind gusts that might have gotten up to 30 mph, according to Marchese.
The passing game consisted of short passes in the flat for both teams until a couple of longer passes that went for points on the board that gave each team an opportunity to win.
The first quarter saw Vicksburg score its first TD with 1:55 left in the quarter on a nifty pass from Dalton Ketelaar for 35 yards to Connor Henderson in the corner of the end zone. After that, the teams exchanged punts several times without getting their ground games going past mid-field.
In the second quarter Three Rivers started on Vicksburg’s 27 yard line after punts into the wind fell short. A penalty moved the ball to the eight-yard line and the Wildcats ran the ball right into the end zone for a 7-7 tie. Vicksburg’s defense came alive when a Three Rivers punt was fumbled and the Wildcats took over with a first and goal to go. A Three Rivers penalty pushed the ball back to the 22-yard line and a fourth and 20 saw a desperate pass into the end zone broken up by Caleb Kudary. The teams went into the locker room tied at the half.
Three Rivers came out on the attack after the half and drove downfield on its opening possession to Vicksburg’s 17 when the defense again stopped them from scoring. Vicksburg took over on its own 17 with Nick Wallace running hard and Ketelaar scrambling to keep the drive alive that eventually stalled. A long pass to Brenden Lovell took the Bulldogs to the Three Rivers 30, but they couldn’t punch it in and punted to the 18 where Three Rivers took over.
The visitors couldn’t move the ball much farther and an attempted punt from about the 20 was blocked by Henderson. The Bulldogs still couldn’t capitalize as they kept going backwards with penalties that hurt them and hard tackling by the Wildcats.
Late in the fourth quarter, Vicksburg started its winning drive from the 50 with Wallace advancing the ball to the 23 with some hard running. Ketelaar rolled out to his left and let go a quick pass to Hunter Van for a completion to the eight-yard line. This time Wallace took the ball over with 3:55 left in the game. It was time for the defense to get tough when Three Rivers got the ball on its own 25.
Instead the momentum started turning Three Rivers way with a tricky reverse play that took them to the 47 of Vicksburg, with Henderson making a saving tackle with 1:46 left. The Three Rivers quarterback completed a desperation scoring pass to his wide receiver to score with 58 seconds left on the scoreboard. The snap for the extra point try was fumbled and the game ended with Vicksburg taking a knee on the fifty yard line after recovering an onside kick by the Wildcats.
The next playoff game will be at Edwardsburg which advanced on a win over Paw Paw. They will play on Friday, November 7 at 7 p.m. Vicksburg beat the Eddies in an early home game in September.