CAYUGA, Ind. — Every high school football team has those players that toil and struggle to have an influence on Friday nights.
In the beginning of their athletic careers, they are the guys that typically fill the positions on the scout team and they get playing experience in junior-varsity contests.
Finally, in their senior season, they get their opportunity to be a significant contributor to the success of the varsity squad.
The phrase for those players — “Program Kids.”
North Vermillion senior Nick Myers is one of those kids, but on Friday night, he made the biggest play of the 2019 football season for the Falcons.
Myers catch of a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brennan Ellis with 6.3 seconds left on the clock gave North Vermillion a 42-40 win over the Parke Heritage Wolves in the championship game of the IHSAA Class 1A Sectional 45 Tournament.
“We had several of those type of kids on the field tonight,’’ said North Vermllion coach Brian Crabtree. “They are kids that didn’t get to play when they were younger, but they stuck with it. They kept working and put in their time for the team. And when they finally get their opportunity, they shine. Nick is one of those guys.
“Soft spoken, and not comfortable in the spotlight, but tough as nails and as gritty as they come.’’
Crabtree’s final description is spot-on.
Myers, who had no troubles making three catches for 40 yards including that game-winner, was seemingly a bit overwhelmed with interviews with local media outlets.
What was he thinking as the ball flew his way?
“I don’t know,’’ he answered. “I just know I got up and started yelling.’’
In all honestly, Myers might have been too wide open as there wasn’t a Parke Heritage defended within 10 yards of him.
“I was very surprised,’’ Myers admitted. “The last time we ran that play, they guarded me and I thought they would do it again.
“When I looked back, I was wide open and I was like ‘come on Brennan, let’s go.’’’
Ellis was scrambling to pick up the ball after an errant snap went flying past him. As he picked up the football, he ran a few steps to his left, before spotting Myers in the end zone.
“Good thing it was a bad snap, or I don’t know if he would have been that wide open,’’ Ellis admitted. “All I knew was that we were going to convert it and win this thing.’’
What did Ellis see after he got the football into his hands.
“I saw all the players in the middle of the field and Nick was wide open,’’ he said. “I thought I overthrew him, but I put it on him just enough.
“It was just doing what we have been taught.’’
According to Crabtree, the game-winning play was one that the Falcons (11-1) ran on first down from the Parke Heritage 14. The pass from Ellis went to Colby West, who was lined up inside of Myers, as he broke wide open into the middle of the end zone. For a moment, it looked it was going to be the game-winning touchdown but the connection wasn’t completed.
“We called that play, we went away from it, and then we came back to it,’’ Crabtree said. “It was like both defensive backs jumped that middle route, because it was open the first time and that left Nick wide open.’’
Was Crabtree worried that Myers, who had 35 receptions and 8 touchdowns during the regular season would make the catch?
“He has caught so many stinkin’ footballs this year from the summer to now — it should be automatic,’’ he said.
And it was.
But, the North Vermillion offense would not have gotten a chance to pull off the miraculous 2-minute drill — actually 1 minute, 53 seconds — if it wasn’t for a huge defensive stop.
Senior linebacker Josh Little stopped Parke Heritage running back Seth Bollinger on a fourth-and-1 play at the North Vermillion 14.
“If we don’t get the stop. They end up running the clock out,’’ Crabtree said. “We had a rough night at times trying to stop them, but when it counted most — we came up huge.’’
The Wolves (10-2) racked up 497 yards with senior quarterback Logan White throwing for 366 and two touchdowns, but they failed twice on fourth down conversions in the second half.
On both occasions, Little came up with the stops for the Falcons. It was the second one that proved to save the game for North Vermillion.
“I figured they were going to run the ball, since they only needed a yard to go,’’ Little said. “I saw a hole open up and I took it.
“Once I got him, it was hold on, stay strong and try to push the pile backwards.’’
Ultimately, the difference in the game came down to extra points as both teams scored six touchdowns.
Parke Heritage was 2-for-6 on 2-point conversions, while North Vermillion was 1-for-2 on the 2-point conversions, but on its final four scores, junior kicker McKenzie Crowder split the uprights and those four points allowed the Falcons to claim its seventh sectional title.
“She did an awesome job,’’ Crabtree said. “It’s nice she is a high-profile athlete in another sport, because she is used to that pressure.’’
With the win, North Vermillion advances to next week’s regional championship against Indianapolis Lutheran.