After senior wide receiver Tyler Ruder was tackled inbounds, Herculaneum’s last gasp for a victory evaporated into the cool night air as the Eagles hung on for a 28-22 victory on Friday. The excitement among Grandview’s players, coaches and fans was palpable. The Eagles hadn’t won since beating Crystal City 8-6 on Oct. 16, 2015.
When injuries forced Grandview to suspend the balance of its 2016 schedule, the Eagles hired Dave Dallas to resurrect the program. A junior varsity campaign in 2017 and 0-10 varsity season last year followed. Grandview was 0-5 going into its I-55 Conference game against the Blackcats (1-5), who have lost five in a row since winning in Week 1.
“Our kids deserve this. We’ve gotten better all year long on a silent basis,” Dallas said. “We kept coaching them. Some of the things we didn’t do well three weeks ago, we did tonight. We tackled well. We ran the ball. I’m proud of our coaches, players and fans. This is a Grandview win tonight. I told our student section (Friday) it’s important for us to win for you as well.”
The conference game featured a stellar running back duel between Grandview’s David Creath and Herculaneum’s Austin Huson. Creath led all rushers with 157 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. Huson rushed 18 times for 143 yards and two scores.
Franklin Greenman, Jared Lattimore, Brandon Volner, Jason Gill and Dawson Milner opened the holes for Creath and Chase Wilson, who added 98 yards on 17 rushes.
“I’d like to thank my offensive line. They did amazing,” Creath said. “We pushed the ball all the way down the field when we needed to. We got first downs late in the game when we needed to. I just appreciate being on this team this year and I’m very proud.”
“(Greenman) played a heck of a football game. A lot of our trap blocks came from him,” Dallas said.
The Blackcats were called for several pre-snap penalties and turned the ball over the first time they touched the ball when punt returner Elijah Fischer was hit by Eric O’Brien’s punt and Wilson recovered at the Herky 24-yard line.
Two players later, quarterback Jakob Brand found Dylan Barker for a 22-yard touchdown pass. O’Brien booted the extra point and the Eagles led 7-0 with 8:43 left in the first. Brand eventually gave way to Clayton Riddle at QB.
“Jakob came up to me in the middle of the first quarter and said, ‘Clayton’s got the hot hand. Play him,’” Dallas said. “That’s what we’re about as a team. Jakob played a heck of a defensive game.”
After the Blackcats went three-and-out on their first possession, defensive lineman Christian McCline jumped on a Grandview fumble at the Eagles 38. It took Herculaneum just three plays to reach the end zone when Huson rushed from 26 yards with 5:42 left in the first. Fischer caught a pass from quarterback Luke Teague on the two-point conversion to give the Blackcats an 8-7 edge.
Early in the second quarter, Barker tackled Fischer for a 3-yard loss on third-and-9 and after the punt, Grandview had the ball at its own 23. Creath gained 14 yards on the first play of the drive before he wound his way through the Blackcat defense for a 46-yard scoring run with 8:08 left in the half. O’Brien added the PAT to give the Eagles a 14-8 lead.
Starting at its 41 with 5:03 left in the half, Herculaneum mounted a 12-play drive that was capped by quarterback Luke Teague’s 12-yard TD pass to Fischer with 20 seconds to play in the second. The Blackcats attempted a two-point try, but were called for holding. Backed up to the 15, Teague’s pass attempt failed and it was 14-14 at the break.
Ethan Coy returned the second-half kickoff 20 yards to Herky’s 40 and Huson gained 22 yards on the first play. But on third-and-11, the Blackcats tried a double-reverse pass that was intercepted by Alex Massey at the Eagles’ 13.
Using just the run, Grandview took the lead on a 10-play drive that included a 40-yard dash by Wilson. Creath gained seven yards on third-and-5 and scored from 14 yards on the next play. O’Brien’s kick was no good and the Eagles led 20-14 with 4:28 left in the third.
Huson fumbled in Grandview territory and Volner recovered the ball late in the third quarter. The Eagles couldn’t convert the turnover into points, and in the first minute of the fourth, Teague fumbled a handoff attempt at his own 8 and the ball went out of the back of the Blackcats’ end zone for a safety and the Eagles’ lead increased to 22-14.
The ensuing free kick by Herky ended with Grandview at midfield. Wilson gained 10 yards on third-and-8 and the Blackcats were penalized for a hit to the head of an Eagles player, placing the ball at the Herculaneum 13. Another penalty against the Blackcats had Grandview inside the 10 and Creath scored his third TD, this time from 5 yards with 6:53 left in the game. Herky blocked the PAT to make it 28-14.
A pass interference call against the Eagles and 16-yard run by Huson had the Blackcats on the positive side of the field, but the drive ended when Wilson intercepted Teague.
Teague completed passes to Tyler Ruder (24 yards) and Cole Myers (22) before Huson scored from 3 yards with 4:16 left in the game. Teague ran in the conversion to make it 28-22. Brand recovered the onside kick and the Eagles gained a first down to eat up time. Herky got the ball back with 16 seconds left.
“Last year our game (against the Blackcats) ended when we had the ball with 16 seconds left and almost the same score, but in their favor. I’m glad we could get them back this year,” Creath said.
Lineman Lane Story had to leave the game for Herculaneum in the first half and was placed into concussion protocol. Logan Melton left the game with a leg injury and didn’t return. Two other players were absent because of a death in their family.
Head coach Cody Hunter said the Blackcats need to put together more effort for four quarters.
“That’s what it’s been every week. We don’t play hard enough and we make way too many mistakes,” Hunter said. “We work all week on those things, but the kids aren’t executing and the coaching staff has to keep trying. Give it to Grandview, they outplayed us. I saw them on film and my biggest concern was they are a gritty group. We haven’t played four quarters except against Jefferson and as a coach that’s hard to watch.”
Dallas said he’s never been prouder of a team he’s coached in 36 years.
“It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about doing the right thing as a football team and growing,” he said.