The season came to an end Nov. 1 for the Eureka County High football team, but the Vandals went out fighting.
With hopes of a trip to the playoffs already long passed, the Vandals were playing for pride and something to build on for next season when they traveled to Carlin (6-2) for the seasons’ final game.
The bid for an upset fell just short, however, as the railroaders narrowly escaped with a 29-14 victory.
“I was really proud of our kids, they came to play,” said Eureka County coach Fred Minoletti. “They really put something together this game and played aggressive. That’s something that was missing most of the year.”
The game was a lot closer than the final outcome would look. After shutting down Carlin’s high-powered offense in the first half, the Vandals found themselves trailing just 13-0 at the half. Minoletti said that he and his players felt that if they could just generate some offense, they might be able to come away with the win.
Eureka got the offense it was looking for in the third quarter when senior quarterback Barry Sanders connected with Trevor Merritt for a touchdown to bring the Vandals within seven points. That deficit quickly turned into a one point Eureka lead when Sanders scored on a quarterback sneak that gave his team a 14-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Railroaders took back the lead for good however with about nine minutes left to go in the game, when they scored a 70-yard touchdown on a punt return. Carlin punched it in again late in the game to seal the hard fought victory.
“Obviously the touchdown on the punt return was the difference maker in the game,” said Minoletti. “Defensively we were stopping them all night. The kids believed they could play with them, and we almost came away with a big win.”
Still Minoletti thought the game was big for the program, and gives them something to build on when they open up camp next year.
“It was huge for overall morale and moving forward for next season,” he said. “We challenged our team after our ugly loss to Wells, and the way they came out and played proved their commitment to the program. I expect next season to be much more successful.”
The Vandals will lose two seniors, Sanders and Garrett Johnson to graduation this spring.