ELC 20, Cherokee 18
After giving up 18 second quarter points, Estherville Lincoln Central’s defense shut down Cherokee in the second half and secured a 20-18 victory in the Midgets’ home finale on Friday.
“We talked all week about how evenly matched we were and both teams expected to be better than 3-4 at this point in the season,” said ELC coach Andy Umthun. “Cherokee came to play and they were very competitive. We battled all night to eliminate the big plays.”
It was ELC scoring on a big play first when Myles McDonald busted through the Cherokee line and found daylight on a 9-yard touchdown run. That came with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
Cherokee answered early in the second quarter on a 16-yard touchdown run by Michael Herrig at the 11:22 mark. However, the extra point attempt failed and ELc led 7-6.
On the ensuing drive, a 50-yard run by Robert Sheridan help give the Midgets field position, but ELC was unable to score and turned the ball over on downs at the Brave 17-yard line.
However, the Braves fumble gave ELC a short field. ELC took advantage with Evan Olesen scoring on a quarterback sneak with 6:36 left in the half.
However, the Braves came up with two big plays before halftime. Quarterback Matt Petts connected with Herrig on a 55-yard strike with 3:06 on the clock. The Braves again mixed the extra point as ELC led 14-12.
Cherokee got the ball back late in the half and Pitts connected with Trey Valentine on a 44-yard strike. This time the two-point conversion failed, but the Braves went into the lockerroom with an 18-14 lead.
ELC started the second half with the football and, while unable to sustain its drive, Olesen’s punt rolled to the Cherokee 1-yard line.
The remainder of the third quarter was played on the Cherokee side of the field as neither offense was able to move the ball.
ELC break came after forcing Cherokee to punt early in the fourth quarter. A bad snap over the punter’s head resulted in an incomplete pass as ELC took over at the Brave 21-yard line.
ELC moved the ball to the 12-yard line and faced fourth-and-1 when McDonald busted through the right side for the go-ahead score with 8:25 left in the game.
ELC defense stopped Cherokee twice.
With the ball and 2:14 left in the contest, ELC looked to put the game away, but the Cherokee still had two timeouts. ELC was unable to get a first down after a false start on third-and-one and punted the ball back to the Braves with a minute left in the game.
However with Cherokee starting at their own 25-yard line, their only option was to pass. Sheridan nearly came up with an interception on second down. On fourth down, ELC put pressure on Pitts and Seth Loock knocked down a pass to Valentine.
ELC (4-4 overall, 3-3 in district play) will wrap up the 2016 season on the road in Orange City against MOC-Floyd Valley (1-7 overall, 1-5 in district play) this Friday.