Jeff Cobb seldom has complaints about his West Vigo defense, and he didn’t Friday night in Western Indiana Conference high school football at Sullivan.
The problem for the Vikings was that Sullivan’s defense was even better.
It took a couple of big plays in the last two minutes of the game to lift West Vigo’s offense above the 100-yard mark, and a touchdown with 12.4 seconds left wasn’t much consolation in a 31-7 loss that ended the regular season for both teams.
Sullivan kept its hopes alive for a share of the WIC championship, pending the outcome of Northview’s game at Brown County, while the Vikings will be 1-8 heading into postseason play.
“I feel bad for our defense,” Cobb said after the game. “They wear down during the course of the game, because our offense can’t move the ball … [the defense] played well the majority of the game.”
The Vikings kept the host Golden Arrows off the scoreboard in the first quarter despite miserable field position, in fact. One of the key Vikings was 5-foot-9, 145-pound cornerback Austin Cutliff, who stopped the first drive virtually single-handedly by batting one pass away from 6-5 Michael Hutchcraft in the end zone, then intercepting the ball in the end zone on the next play.
“He did a good job, against a 6-5 receiver and a 6-4 receiver [tight end Jake Kinnaman],” Cobb noted.
West Vigo failed to convert a fake punt at midfield on its second possession, however, and the Arrows were finished playing around. Michael Willis had completions of 14 yards to freshman Trevor Magill and 21 yards to sophomore Luke Spurlock, and Brooks Weszely capped a 10-play, 51-yard drive with a nifty cut on a 2-yard touchdown run with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
After a three-and-out defensive series, the Arrows quickly scored again when Cameron Marx bulled his way through one potential tackler and rambled 25 yards to the end zone.
West Vigo didn’t get a first down the rest of the half, but the Arrows lost the ball on downs inside the Viking 30, then missed a field goal as the halftime horn sounded.
“We got off to a sluggish start; maybe it was the Senior Night stuff or something,” coach Trent Olson of the Arrows said after the game. “It seemed like we bogged down in the red zone early.”
The Vikings forced a three-and-out of their own early in the third quarter, but Sullivan drove 69 yards in nine plays on its second possession, Willis completing a short pass to Spurlock and Spurlock racing 19 yards to paydirt.
Then an intentional-grounding penalty and a 14-yard punt set the Arrows up at West Vigo’s 16, although the Vikings held the home team to a field goal.
Sullivan’s last touchdown came on a 63-yard, 11-play drive fueled by Weszely’s running, and the senior running back went 9 yards for the score with 4:07 left in the game.
Skyler Warnock’s 42-yard run with less than a minute to go set up the Viking touchdown, an 8-yard pass from Jimmy Maples to Tyler Kernstein. Maples was under duress as he threw the ball, which was nothing unusual.
“The defense really played well,” Olson said. “[Maples] was running for his life all night … and we tackled well for a change.”
Chase Nicol led the Sullivan pass rush throughout the game, while Willis passed for 257 yards and Weszely and Marx combined for 137 yards on the ground. Weszely also caught seven passes for 89 yards.