BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — LINTON — In football, turnovers lead to extra opportunities and they typically determine the outcome.
That was the case on Friday night in the IHSAA Class A regional championship between the Fountain Central Mustangs and the Linton-Stockton Miners.
Fountain Central committed five turnovers and top-rated Linton-Stockton turned them into points as the Miners defeated the Mustangs 47-28 at Roy Williams Field.
“We talked about it before the game, if we turn it over, we are going to have trouble,’’ Fountain Central coach Brian Moore said. “We were able to move the ball, very efficiently, but it was the turnovers.
“How many turnovers did we get back, one or two?’’
Actually, Linton-Stockton had just one offensive miscue and that was offset by an interception by senior defensive back Kurtis Cox just two plays later.
“They got four more turnovers and they won by three scores,’’ Moore said. “That’s the name of the game in football. You have to hang onto the ball.’’
It’s the second time this season that that Mustangs (11-2) were guilty of five turnovers in a game. The other one was a 42-35 loss to North Vermillion in the regular season.
The two mostly costly miscues for Fountain Central came at the start of the third quarter. Linton-Stockton (13-0) turned its third interception and a fumble recovery by Austin Hale in the third quarter into a pair of touchdowns.
“We had a play that we thought was open and they picked it off,’’ Moore said. “They got up 21-7 after that one. And, we were still moving the ball. It was a play that we knew had a chance to be there and it didn’t work.
‘“When push came to shove, they made more plays than we did.’’
Beau Eaton’s 11-yard run and his 34-yard pass to Mitch Eberhardt turned a 14-7 contest at halftime into a 28-7 lead for the Miners just 3 minutes, 22 seconds in the second half.
“They made plays and we didn’t,’’ said Fountain Central senior Trevor Loveall, who had 10 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns for the Mustangs. “That was basically it.’’
From that point on in the third quarter, the Mustangs actually outscored the Miners 21-19 with Loveall’s two touchdown receptions and a 3-yard run by Jared Fishero.
“I’m proud of our kids, they competed and we made some really good plays,’’ Moore said. “Trevor is a heck of an athlete. He went over 1,000 yards receiving for the year tonight.
“He is just a playmaker for us. I’m proud of him for what he accomplished. He had a great season and a great career.’’
But even with nearly 1,100 receiving yards this season and 14 touchdowns, Loveall wasn’t thinking about personal accomplishments after the loss.
“It means a lot, especially in my senior season,’’ he said. “You would have liked to win a few more, but it has to end at some time.
“I just tried to do what I could to help the team. I just tried to make plays.’’
Ultimately, that was something that Fountain Central didn’t do enough against Linton-Stockton.
The end of the first half was very telling for the Mustangs as they failed to finish 15-play drive and the Miners needed four plays to go 83 yards in 55 seconds to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
Moore admitted the third down play at the Linton-Stockton 13 was critical play.
“We ran a jet sweep. We missed a block and they got a big TFL (tackle for a loss),’’ Moore said. “We didn’t punch it in there. If I had it to do over again, I would do it differently, but we just ran a similar play and got 30 yards. You can second-guess yourself on everything.’’
The Miners quick scoring drive included a 31-yard pass play from Eaton to Zane Hayden as the quarterback scrambled away from the Mustang defense and just threw the pass up for grabs.
“We just let them throw it up and get a big play — all of the sudden they have the momentum,’’ Moore said.
Two plays later, Hayden took a swing pass out of the backfield and raced 22 yards for a score with just 28 seconds left in the first half.
Fountain Central quarterback Kody Pierce was 19-of-27 passing for 316 yards, as the Mustangs finished with 470 yards of total offense and the Miners had 490, but 338 of those came on the ground. Hayden was the leading ground gainer for Linton-Stockton with 129 yards.
Linton-Stockton advances to next week’s semi-state contest where the Miners will play Eastern Hancock, a 29-14 winner over South Putnam.