WEST TERRE HAUTE -- A thrilling late rally by the Greencastle football team came within 15 yards of an improbable Tiger Cub victory, until a fumbled option pitch with one minute left to play was recovered by West Vigo (1-1), who ran out the clock to win 15-13.
The way the game ended reflected the way most of it had gone for Greencastle (1-1) until its fourth-quarter offensive explosion -- when the Tiger Cubs scored two touchdowns and almost had another. Prior to the final stanza, Greencastle had done nothing but squander its offensive opportunities all game, including four chances in the second quarter when it started inside the West Vigo 30-yard-line.
"Our guys finally responded to adversity late in the third quarter and fourth quarter, but we have to have that intensity, that desire and that urgency right from the start," head coach Eric Davis said. "The bottom line is that West Vigo won the game. They set the tone early, and we put ourselves in some bad situations."
Despite the slow start, Greencastle still put itself in position to win. Down 15-0 late in the third quarter, the Tiger Cubs seemed destined for their first loss. But an errant throw by West Vigo's Lance Garrett was intercepted by Greencastle's Keith Carr and returned to the 17-yard-line.
Unlike it had earlier in the game, Greencastle took advantage of its starting field position. After their first two plays resulted in losses -- the offense looking every bit as ineffective as it had for the first three quarters -- a third-and-long reception by Keegan Remsburg, in which he made defenders miss on his way to the first down, set Greencastle up for a short touchdown scamper by Tanner Battin.
A missed extra point, however, meant Greencastle still trailed by two scores, 15-6, with only eight minutes left to play. Kicker Kyle Parker, fresh off his missed PAT, more than made up for his mistake with a well-executed squib kick that was recovered by the Tiger Cubs coverage team deep in West Vigo territory.
"We were just trying to limit their field position there, because they had some success with their return game," Davis said. "And we got a break there with the recovery."
On the following drive, Battin connected on a key fourth-down pass to Ben Hesler, and soon after Remsburg caught a quick out route for a two-yard touchdown. The extra point, this time, was good, and Greencastle now trailed by two with around six minutes left to play.
The Greencastle defense, as it has for much of the season, stepped up again, forcing a three-and-out punt by West Vigo. Greencastle had to start the drive from its own five-yard-line with around three and a half minutes remaining. Just three quick plays later -- a Remsburg catch-and-run, followed by Battin and Trevor Teal runs -- Greencastle had passed midfield. Then Battin found receiver Nick Hutcheson on the left sideline, and the lanky wideout sprinted for 34 yards to inside the 20-yard-line with about 1:30 left to play.
But a few plays later, Battin's option pitch missed the hands of his running back and fell to the turf, pounced on by Viking defenders.
Greencastle's own mistakes in the game left them in need of a desperate comeback. The defense played tough for four quarters, but the Tiger Cub offense couldn't get out of its own way early, beset by missed assignments, dropped passes and one particularly costly penalty -- a holding call that nullified a 57-yard touchdown run by Teal in the first quarter.
The Tiger Cubs started the game on defense, and looked like they'd pick up right where they left off in last week's win over Monrovia. They forced a quick three-and-out, but a bungled punt return allowed the ball to roll all the way to their own two-yard-line.
"The return game caused us some problems all night," Davis said, explaining some of the issues fielding punts. "It's hard to estimate where their kicking game is going in week two, because you have hardly any film on them."
West Vigo capitalized on the error, stopping Greencastle's first play from scrimmage in the end zone for a safety. The Vikings' Dylan Aff then returned the ensuing kickoff to the Greencastle 31. After converting a fourth-and-six, Cole Lydick's eight-yard touchdown dash through the middle of the Greencastle defense gave West Vigo a 9-0 lead.
Greencastle wasted several opportunities to narrow the gap in the second quarter, failing to capitalize on good field position. West Vigo, meanwhile, found ways to make Greencastle pay for its lack of offensive production. Midway through the third quarter, Aff had a spectacular 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. Then came the Tiger Cub comeback, which came up short.
"After a game like this, I think it's clear there isn't anything we can't get better at," Davis said. "There isn't anybody who isn't at least a little bit dirty after this one. We've got to go back and look at executing the fundamentals, the techniques, and we'll do that
At West Vigo
W.V. --Safety, 2-0
W.V. -- Touchdown by Cole Lydick, 9-0
W.V. -- Touchdown by Dylan Aff, 15-0
G.C.-- Touchdown Battin run, 6 yard run, 15-6
G.C. -- Touchdown, Remsburg, 2 yard run, 15-13
Greencastle offensive leaders
PASSING -- Battin -- 11-21, 126, 1 TD, 1 INT
RUSHING -- Hesler 3 - (-9), Teal 16-25, Battin 4-(-8), Vermillion 3-11
RECEIVING -- Remsburg 4-51 1TD, Hesler 4-41, Hutcheson 1-34