By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity football team were heavy favorites going into their road game against Three Rivers. But the Wildcats didn’t give up the coveted swine bone trophy without a fight.
The Bulldogs defeated their rivals 49-42 and bettered their record to 4-1 in a game that was closer than most expected. “We saw a lot of situations we haven’t seen all year,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said. “We’d like to tackle a little bit better and cover in space better.”
Mostly the game was the “Jacob Conklin show” as he used his legs to find the end zone five times. He also passed to Chase Myers for another two. The two teams went scoreless for the first two possessions before Conklin scored on a two-yard keeper. He followed that up with a three-yard scramble and successful PAT to make things 14-0 in the second quarter.
But Three Rivers marched over 60 yards in four plays to score and make things 14-7 with just over 1:10 left in the first half. Vicksburg marched down the field to the Wildcats’ 43-yard line, giving the Bulldogs a chance at a deep shot with just five seconds left. Conklin’s pass to Toby Stock was incomplete, but Stock drew a pass interference in the end zone. This set up Vicksburg at the Three Rivers 28 with time for one play. Conklin threw a perfect pass in the left end zone, hitting Myers in stride for an easy touchdown to extend the lead 21-7.
The Wildcats cut the gap back to seven with their first possession of the second half. But the Bulldogs went on a long drive and Conklin scored on a two-yard keeper to make it 28-14. On the next Wildcats possession, Kyle Rose deflected a pass that was intercepted by Jayce Todd. Conklin made it count with a seven-yard score to make the score 35-14.
Three Rivers answered again after that to make things 35-21, but Conklin hit Myers again with a short screen that Myers turned into a 21-yard scoring play. The PAT made it 42-28.
After the loss to Edwardsburg the week before, Vicksburg was playing hurt this week. The team was forced to play Conklin and Toby Stock in at safety due to injuries. “We’re pretty talented, but we’re not terribly deep,” Marchese said. “Injuries hurt us, so we’ve got to overcome a little bit.”
Three Rivers made a charge near the end of the game and scored two touchdowns to cut the score to 42-35. With multiple injuries at running back, the team was forced into using screens and Conklin’s scrambling ability to eat clock at the end. Conklin iced the game with a huge, 48-yard run where he stiff-armed several defenders and spun out of a tackler on the way to the end zone.
The Wildcats scored late to make it 49-42, but Vicksburg managed to recover two onside kick attempts and run the clock out. It was a meaningful win after their first loss of the year to Edwardsburg the week prior, but the Bulldogs have work to do, especially with the running game and defense. “We’ll keep working on it,” Marchese said. “We’ve got to get our backs as many reps as possible.”