RUSSELL, Pa. – Eisenhower’s defense has been stifling all year long, and rose to the occasion when the Knights needed it most.
(Photo courtesy Steve Younger. Eisenhower’s Owen Trumbull tackles West Middlesex’s Ty Tate during their District 10 Class 1A semifinal game at Eisenhower High School, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.)
Eisenhower led West Middlesex, 22-21, in overtime with the Big Reds getting set to attempt a 2-point conversion from the Knights’ one yard line. WM’s Ian Smith tried to get the win on a dive up the middle, but the Eisenhower defense stopped him inches short of the goal line to secure the win in double overtime and send the Knights to the District 10 Class 1A title game.
“We’ve been in situations like this last year,” Eisenhower’s Cael Black said. “This year, thankfully, we haven’t had to. But we were put to the test tonight and I think we really stepped up. I think our interior guys Colby (Hagg) and (Jared) Beers stepped up big time to make a big play and won us the game.”
The Knights’ (8-0) defensive front, including Black, Hagg, Beers, Gannon Jaquay, Benji Bauer and others had to stop the conversion attempt twice. On the first try, quarterback Ty Tate’s pass fell incomplete, but a flag for defensive pass interference set up the final play.
“We were just trying to keep them calm, settle them down,” Jaquay said about the huddle before the final play.
Though it concluded as a defensive battle, it looked like the game might have plenty of offensive fireworks early.
Eisenhower took the opening kickoff and methodically marched down the field. By the time Black finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, the Knights had taken nearly seven minutes off the clock. They wouldn’t cross the goal line again until overtime.
(Photo courtesy Steve Younger. Eisenhower’s Caleb Robinault picks up yards during a game against West Middlesex Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.)
“When we went out and scored on the opening drive, I think a lot of guys thought it was going to be another blowout,” Black said. “But they ended up scoring and it ended up being a close game, which we need right now.”
Eisenhower got a fourth down stop on WM’s opening possession, but went three-and-out. The punt netted zero yards and the Big Reds took over from the Eisenhower 26.
West Middlesex took advantage of the short field as Tate ran in from four yards out to knot the game at 7-7.
The score wouldn’t change again until overtime.
(Photo courtesy Steve Younger. Eisenhower players are all smiles after advancing to the District 10 Class 1A championship game.)
WM threatened late in the first half, but a pair of big plays were negated due to penalties, a theme for the game for both teams.
The Big Reds looked poised to take the lead on their first possession of the second half. A pair of 30-plus yard pass plays had WM inside the Eisenhower 10. The Knights were able to force a turnover on downs to get the ball back.
Eisenhower marched down to the WM 30, but the Big Reds popped the ball out of Mike Jones’ hands and recovered to stop the drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, Trumbull turned a busted play into what the Knights thought was a 63-yard touchdown run. A block in the back penalty erased the score.
With just under four minutes to play in the game, the Knights thought they had a touchdown pass from Trumbull to Zane Alexander, but again a penalty took points off the board.
West Middlesex took advantage of a pair of Eisenhower penalties in the final two minutes to move down to the Knights 15. Chris Smith set up for a potential game-winning field goal with 13 seconds to go, but the kick sailed into the line of scrimmage to send the game to overtime.
In the first overtime, Tate found Chris Smith in the back of the end zone on first down for the 10-yard touchdown. They hooked up again on the 2-point conversion to give the Big Reds a 15-7 lead.
The Knights answered with a 5-yard Black run and Trumbull leapt over the goal line to send the game to a second overtime.
Eisenhower had the first possession and Trumbull dove in to finish off a 5-yard run. Jake Venman connected on the extra point to put the Knights up 22-15.
Colby Johnson scored from 5 yards out to set up the final stand.
Eisenhower’s defensive line earned the Jim Kelly Player of the Game powered by the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg.
Trumbull finished 7-15 for 76 yards passing, but added 14 carries for 49 yards and a score. Black had 15 carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns.
Tate 11-22 for 191 yards and a touchdown through the air and 11 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Eisenhower will face Reynolds, a 40-0 winner over Cambridge Springs, for the District 10 Class 1A title next week.