BY ROB WITZEL
CAYUGA, Ind. —
The North Vermillion Falcons football team did something that hasn’t been done since 2008: Defeat the Fountain Central Mustangs in a conference football game.
The Mustangs came in with a 20-0 streak in Wabash River Conference matchups and the streak came to an end with a 25-21 loss.
“We were the underdogs coming in and that’s nothing new for us,” Falcon running back Kody Zumwalt said. “We’ve been underdogs for as long as I can remember, I’m just proud of the guys fighting through. Whenever they hit us we kept on going.”
“It feels great. We’ve been working toward this. We knew we had nothing to lose and played like it,” Falcon quarterback Brayden Woodard added. “It shows that we can play with anybody. Fountain Central is a powerhouse 2A team. Conditions weren’t perfect but we battled it out.”
While the Falcons’ offense is usually the highlight in North Vermillion wins, tonight the defense shined by slowing down Mustang star Michael Duane.
“They were packed in on defense and forced us to pass,” Mustangs Coach Brian Moore said.
For a team that runs the ball so well, Fountain Central threw the ball great despite the rainy weather. Mustang quarterback Koby Pierce threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Early in the game, the Mustangs struck first on their second drive of the game. After the Falcon defense had made two big stops on first and second down, Michael Duane exploded with a 48-yard touchdown run.
But then the Falcon defense started to click. Big runs were shortened to short gains, turnovers were forced, and a game long battle for field position began.
Junior linebacker Abbott Dowers made crucial plays for the North Vermillion defense with an interception, a few sacks, and several tackles that led to a very impressive stand.
“We were focused, kept a fast paced tempo, and didn’t give anything up.” Dowers said.
The Falcons offense took awhile to get started but once it took off, it soared. North Vermillion would score twice in the second quarter. First Woodard ran 58 yards for a score, followed shortly thereafter with a 69-yard run by Zumwalt.
The Falcons would miss both extra points however and went into halftime with a 12-6 lead.
In the third quarter the Falcons extended their lead with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Woodard to Ethan Lee, but missed the two point try.
Down by two scores, the Mustangs were not ready to let go.
With the running game not going as smoothly as usual, Fountain Central took advantage of softer coverage and Pierce took advantage of it with big plays.
First with 10 minutes to go in the game, he shortened the deficit to 5 with a 51-yard pass to Brad Bowlus. Then less than 90 seconds of game time later, threw a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown pass to Duane. Add in an extra point and a two point conversion and the Mustangs led by three points with 8:33 to play.
The battle for field position continued before the Falcons put up their best drive of the night that finished with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Zumwalt to take the lead.
The Mustangs would try once more, but with a late turnover were unable to take down their conference rival.
“I’m happy for the kids, community, school and coaches. It’s an accomplishment we can all be proud of,” Falcon coach Brian Crabtree said. “We were excited going into it because the potential of the game. This is what makes football fun, games like these. Win, lose or draw to play a game like this, on a night like this is really rewarding.”
“We played hard and it was a very competitive football game,” Moore said. “It was a sloppy mess out there and they got us in the end. My hat’s off to them.
While the Falcons are overjoyed with the win, they can’t help but keep looking at their list of goals they want to accomplish this season.
“We want to enjoy the win tonight. But we want to put the wraps on a conference championship and to do that we have to beat Seeger next week,” Crabtree said.
“This one was big but there are still bigger and better things we want to accomplish,” Zumwalt added. “Sectionals … State … We have some more work to do.”
Next week the 8-0 Falcons travel to Seeger while the 7-1 Mustangs host Rockville.