For three quarters of high school football Friday night, the story was how visiting Terre Haute South had won a game in somewhat unexpected fashion.
After a hectic fourth period, in which host Indian Creek nearly overcame a 21-point deficit, the story was South winning at all, which it finally did 34-24 when Tyler Seibert scored his fourth touchdown with 1:41 left in the game.
Seibert caught three touchdown passes from Danny Etling, ran for one score, had 234 all-purpose yards and also caught a pair of 2-point conversion passes, yet the story for the winners wasn’t about South’s passing attack.
Etling had what was, for a quarterback of his credentials, a less than perfect game — 15 of 27 for 267 yards, but with two interceptions and several errant throws.
“I thought we played well enough defensively to win the game,” coach Mike Gillin of Indian Creek said afterward, “but we gave up a couple of big plays. That receiver is really good, and the quarterback’s not bad either.”
The Etling-to-Seibert connection clicked twice in the first quarter — when Seibert had 134 receiving yards — and the Braves had a 12-0 lead. The duo combined for a 71-yard score on the third play from scrimmage, and with 1:06 left in the period made a 52-yard connection when two defenders collided after Seibert beat them to the ball.
Between those scores, however, was a turnoverfest. Indian Creek moved the ball only to have South take it away three times, and Etling threw the first of his interceptions.
South’s defense took over in the second quarter, throttling the Indian Creek running game. As a result, the host team couldn’t take advantage of two more South turnovers, one of them deep in Indian Creek territory, although Indian Creek did kick a field goal after a long interception return.
South dominated the third period, driving 81 yards — mostly on the ground — to a score on its first possession, Seibert tallying on a reverse, and taking advantage of one of three Kane Wilford takeaways (two interceptions returned for 66 yards plus a fumble recovery) to score on a touchdown pass from Etling to Logan Steward with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
That made the score 28-3 and it should have been plenty — but then things happened.
Indian Creek’s drive after the Steward touchdown got penalty help on both ends, and the hosts got a touchdown pass 39 seconds into the fourth period.
A blocked punt set up another score, and with nine minutes left the lead had been cut to 28-18. And after a huge hit that forced a fumble — South’s fourth turnover — Indian Creek marched 75 yards to paydirt. With 2:01 left, the lead was 28-24.
Indian Creek’s onside kickoff didn’t go the required 10 yards, but South’s first two offensive plays went nowhere. So Etling went to the air again, and Seibert was available, scoring the clinching touchdown from 41 yards away.
“We played hard,” the South receiver said after the game. “We really showed how hard we worked this summer.
“We had people banged up at the end, but we pushed through it. Our leadership was good too.”
“Four turnovers — you can’t do stuff like that and expect good things to happen,” coach Mark Raetz said afterward. “But the guys showed a lot of resolve and were able to beat a good team, one of the best in 3A.”
South also had 192 rushing yards, but more of its heroes were defensive ones. In addition to Wilford, South got some big sacks from linebacker Derik Whalen, solid line play from Brandon Russell-Cherry and Junior Berry, a fumble recovery by Howie Lawson and an interception by Jonathan Weakley.
“The guys up front played relatively well,” said Raetz, still shuddering from fourth-quarter memories, “and for the most part they did a good job.”
“I’m proud of the way [my team] came back,” said Gillin. “They could have folded ... but we didn’t capitalize on some big plays offensively; we had three opportunities to score [including a receiver heading for the end zone who fumbled the ball away to Wilford] in the first half.
“We’ll get some respect out of [this game],” Gillin concluded, “we just didn’t get the W.”
South center Zac Harper left the game with an injury in the second half, and the Braves were also without kicker Adam Kahn.
Terre Haute South 34,
Indian Creek 24
Terre Haute South 12 0 16 6 — 34
Indian Creek 0 3 0 21 — 24
THS — Tyler Seibert 71 pass from Danny Etling (kick failed), 11:39 1st
THS — Seibert 52 pass from Etling (kick failed), 1:06 1st
IC — Morgan Morrison 31 FG, 8:48 2nd
THS — Seibert 24 run (Seibert pass from Etling), 6:47 3rd
THS — Logan Steward 12 pass from Etling (Seibert pass from Etling), 0:45.9 3rd
IC — Kyle Meiklejohn 5 pass from Matthew Wray (Morrison kick), 11:21 4th
IC — Meiklejohn 13 pass from Wray (Kyler Schrougham pass from Meiklejohn), 9:00 4th
IC — Dokken Egenolf 1 run (kick failed), 2:01 4th
THS — Seibert 41 pass from Etling (run failed), 1:41 4th
First downs 17 18
Rushes-yards 35-192 30-69
Passing yards 267 193
Comp-Att-Int 15-27-2 21-37-3
Return yards 66 78
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-2
Penalties-yards 12-103 5-33
Punts-avg 4-27.5 3-31
Rushing: THS — Ian Newton 7-90, Seibert 5-61, Pedro Piloni 11-41, Michael Watt 5-18, Team 2-minus 4, Etling 5-minus 14. IC — Egenolf 16-49, Justin Cochran 3-12, Wray 11-8.
Passing: THS — Etling 15-27-2, 267 yards. IC — Wray 21-35-1, 193; Brenden Smith 0-2-2.
Receiving: THS — Steward 7-47, Seibert 5-173, Nic Keller 1-21, Newton 1-16, LaMarkis Stevenson 1-10. IC — B.Smith 11-128, Meiklejohn 5-44, Cory Utecht 3-20, Egenolf 2-1.
Next — Terre Haute South (1-0) plays Terre Haute North next Friday at Memorial Stadium. Indian Creek (0-1) plays at Greenwood that night.