WILMINGTON — The St. Elizabeth football team spent what seemed like the entire second half of its game Oct. 7 against Indian River on defense, trying to keep IR at bay. The Indians had cut the Vikings’ lead to a single touchdown with 3:09 left, and after holding St. Elizabeth to a three and out and a botched punt attempt, IR got the ball back with a short field and 1:55 left on the clock.
The Indians moved the ball a bit, but on fourth and nine from the Vikings’ 29 with just over a minute remaining, St. E’s defensive lineman Carl Taylor burst through the line and sacked Indians quarterback Ryan Sheerer, ending the threat and helping preserve a 14-7 victory at Abessinio Stadium.
The Indians spent nearly the entire second half on offense as they tried to erase a 14-0 halftime deficit. After receiving the kickoff to open the third quarter, they embarked on a drive that consumed more than nine minutes, only to come up empty after Dalton Hall was stopped at the 2 on a fourth and goal from the five. Andre Green and Quasim Benson teamed up to make the stop.
St. Elizabeth prevented the Indians from scoring, but they were left starting a drive from their own 2. The drive lasted just four plays, including a short punt that set Indian River up at the Vikings’ 22. Indian River, however, turned the ball back over to the Vikings on downs.
The teams traded turnovers in the fourth quarter, with the Indians again unable to cash in from short yardage. The drive, which began at the St. Elizabeth 49, included a fourth-and-nine play, a pass to Hayden Hall, that was good for a first down, along with an 18-yard pass to Hall on a third-and-11 that gave IR a first and goal at the 5. The exchange on the next snap, however, went awry, and the Vikings fell on the loose football at their own 4.
St. Elizabeth fumbled the ball back to Indian River on first down, and the Indians did not miss this opportunity. On first down, Dalton Hall went off left tackle and found the end zone, cutting the Vikings’ lead in half with 3:09 on the clock.
The Vikings recovered an onside kick at their own 46 yard line, but they could not generate a first down, A muffed punt set up the Indians at the St. E 40, necessitating some last-minute defensive heroics capped by Taylor’s sack.
St. E’s did put up two first-half touchdowns, although the points did not come easy. They took over at the IR 19 late in the first quarter after recovering an Indians fumble. Chris Caracter and Benson took turns running the ball, including a 27-yard scamper by Benson that took the Vikings to the IR 40 and ended the first quarter. That was the first of seven consecutive runs by Benson, the last of which went for 16 yards around right end for a touchdown.
The Vikings forced the Indians to punt on their next possession, and St. Elizabeth took over at their own 22. Facing a third and 10, Smick hit Mike Downes with a short pass that turned into a 25-yard gain. Smick and Downes connected on another third and 10, this one from the IR 42, and that was good for another 16 yards and a first down as Downes spun out of bounds at the 26. Smick went to the air again on the next play, and Caracter made an impressive catch over his head while tip-toeing just inside the right sideline in the end zone. That score came with 1:54 to go until the half.
The Vikings improved to 5-0. They begin a four-game road trip next Friday at 6 p.m. at Dickinson.
Indian River (2-2) travels to Polytech next Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.