By Rob Potter
ELDRED The visiting Tri-Valley Bears and Eldred Yellowjackets battled each other, a steady rainfall and a few gusts of wind for four quarters in Friday night’s non-league football game.
But at the end of those four quarters of play, the score remained even at 0-0.
While the rain stopped as overtime began, the action did not. Both teams scored a touchdown and the game entered a second overtime with the score knotted at 6-6.
After the teams stopped each other from scoring in the second overtime, they went into a third OT. In that third OT, Eldred’s Tyler Knapp ran for a 7-yard touchdown to give his team a 12-6 lead. Teammate Anthony Margarum ran up the middle for the 2-point conversion, stretching the Yellowjackets’ advantage to 14-6.
On its ensuing possession, T-V advanced the ball to the Yellowjackets’ 6-yard line to set up a first-and-goal situation. But the Eldred defense prevented the Bears from getting any closer to the end zone to preserve its eight-point win.
Eldred (2-2) had the ball first in the first OT. On the second play of the possession, Zak Dilles ran for a 6-yard touchdown. He was stopped just short of the goal line on the subsequent 2-point conversion play.
T-V (1-3) answered with a touchdown on its possession. On first-and-10 from the Eldred 20-yard line, quarterback Greg Swarthout threw a TD pass to Conor Walsh to even the score at 6-6. The Bears had the chance to win the game with a successful 2-point conversion. But the Yellowjackets stopped Aric Boyes when he tried to run for the 2 points.
The two defenses stayed strong in the second OT, which paved the way for Knapp’s game-winning touchdown in the third OT.
As one might expect with the rainy conditions, players from both teams had problems maintaining a grasp on the football during regulation. Both teams fumbled the ball a few times.
However, both teams were able to move the ball down the field. T-V had an excellent chance to score late in the second quarter. After recovering a fumble at the Eldred 30-yard line, the Bears quickly moved the ball inside the 10-yard line.
With five seconds remaining until halftime, the Yellowjackets stopped Boyes inches from the goal line to keep the game scoreless.
T-V appeared to have taken a 6-0 lead with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter as Cody Exner ran 37 yards into the end zone. But the touchdown was nullified because of a holding penalty.
Eldred’s best opportunity to score during regulation was in the final minute of the fourth quarter. In three plays, the Yellowjackets moved from the T-V 43-yard line down to the T-V 16-yard line. With just five seconds left on the clock, Eldred tried a pass play. But the pass was incomplete and the clock ran out.
“Our team worked hard and it was great to get the win,” Eldred Coach Pat Kean said. “I think it was a well-played game [under the conditions].”
Kean noted that his team stopping the Bears near the goal line in the second quarter was a key moment in the game.
“They got down inside our 10-yard line and if they had been able to score on that drive, they might have ended up winning the game,” he said. “I give our defense a lot of credit for that stop.”
Kean was pleased with the Yellowjackets’ overall performance.
“I think we are improving with every game this season,” he commented. “I hope we continue to get better and get some more wins.”
Jordan Tice led the Eldred offense by rushing for 76 yards on 14 carries, while Margarum ran five times for 48 yards.
Dilles paced the Yellowjackets’ defense with 11 tackles. Anthony Moriggia had 10 tackles and Adam Schoch made five tackles.
“Penalties killed us tonight,” T-V Coach John Rusin said. “You have to give credit to Eldred. They took advantage of the mistakes we made. They played a good game.
“Whenever we had their backs to the wall, Eldred came back and turned it into a positive,” he added. “You just tip your hat to Eldred. They came out and beat us.”