The most memorable game at Crutchley Field’s young existence took place this past Friday night as Eureka used some late game heroics in a game they positively needed to win. As the Vandal football program has struggled mightily the last few years accumulating wins, Friday’s game against Carlin was a huge indicator that the program is returning to their once impressive standards.
A close game throughout was the same theme Eureka and Carlin had in the previous meeting in Carlin between the two league foes. Eureka ended up losing the first contest by a deflating touchdown pass with 15 seconds left. The tough loss seemed fresh in the Vandals’ minds in the rematch as they never quit and needed nearly every second of the game to achieve revenge.
Quarterback Trevor Merritt and receiver Nick Gordon continued to look sharp and on the same page as they hooked up for impressive yardage and touchdown totals in Friday’s game. Merritt passed for 277 yards with 4 passing touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were hauled in by Nick Gordon as he racked up 144 receiving yards. Merritt also had 115 yards rushing with 2 rushing touchdowns to account for six total touchdowns.
It should be noted that back-ups Brendan Mears and CW Bice came up big for the Vandals as well. “Both players had to come in and lead a drive for the Vandals as cramps and minor injuries temporarily sidelined some of our starters,” Head Coach Minoletti said.
Although Eureka’s offense was on point all night, Carlin held the lead most of the game. Both teams seemed poised for another close contest as each team was moving the ball effectively all night. As in the previous game between the two teams, it seemed as if the last team with the ball would have a great shot to win the game. “We played well on offense gaining 466 yards and scoring 6 touchdowns, but defensively we need to play better and be more disciplined if we want to be competitive in the playoffs,” Head Coach Fred Minoletti explained.
That statement from Minoletti explained the game well as both teams had their way with the opposing defense all night. Late in the 4th quarter, Eureka cut the deficit to 34-40 and got the ball back for one final drive to try and win the game. The Vandals moved the ball down the field as they had all night and put themselves in great position to score the game tying touchdown. Trevor Merritt took his drop and threw a nice ball intended for Nick Gordon. Gordon had to lay out for the ball and reeled in the pass in the end zone to knot the score at 40-40 with :44 seconds left. The catch of the year for the Vandals set up Eureka for the go ahead two-point try. Eureka punched in the conversion and took a 42-40 lead with the home crowd being as loud and proud as they have been in years.
The Vandals had to play prevent defense for the remaining 44 seconds in which they did effectively. Eureka beat Carlin in a thriller, 42-40. After the game, I caught up with coach Minoletti for his post game thoughts on the huge win. “I am proud as heck, we could of laid down but we were resilient,” Minoletti exclaimed. “To come back from two scores down in the second half the way we did was great,” Minoletti added.
The win for the Vandals means that Wells, Carlin, and Eureka all could have a shot at 1st place in league. Eureka split with both Wells and Carlin this year with a very important game between Wells and Carlin remaining. Eureka needs Carlin to beat Wells this Friday night in Carlin to assure a playoff spot. If Wells wins, it could spell a difficult end to Eureka’s season as it looks like Eureka would lose out on a point system tie breaker between the 3 teams.
Eureka still needs to take care of business in McDermitt this Saturday as they conclude their league season against the Bulldogs. Hopefully for Eureka, they can beat McDermitt for the second time this year and have Carlin beat Wells at home to secure a playoff spot. No matter what though, Eureka players and their coaches should be proud of their season as it seems like Vandal Football is back on the map.