The Class A No. 1 Linton Miners will remain atop that poll following a less-than-perfect but extremely clutch performance against rival Sullivan.
The Miners turned the ball over on downs four times in addition to a lost fumble and an interception, but visiting Sullivan’s five turnovers proved fatal. Linton scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 34-24 high school football victory.
Sullivan showed the ability to end a three-game losing streak in the series — Mike Willis connecting with 6-foot-4 wide receiver Michael Hutchcraft for 74 yards in the first half as one example — but Linton showed poise under pressure to earn the win.
“This was a huge win for us. Our kids fought threw the weather, turnovers, silly penalties and showed a lot of character tonight,” first-year Linton coach Brian Oliver said. “We were able to get a W against a good team and a big rival.”
Sullivan coach Trent Olson was proud of the effort his team put forth in a tough environment.
“It was a gutsy effort by both teams. Everybody’s worn out, everybody’s tired and banged up,” Olson said.
Grant Stamm, who made a leaping 26-yard touchdown catch from Dane Rupska with 20 seconds left in the first quarter, also made a late burst to break up a pass to a wide-open Hutchcraft in the end zone in the second quarter.
Sullivan still managed a 10-8 lead at halftime thanks to the strong leg of Kynan Johnson, who kicked a 35-yard field goal a week after kicking the Golden Arrows to a 30-27 win in Week 1 against Vincennes Lincoln.
While pass coverage was improved in the second half, Oliver said it was all about getting more pressure up front.
“We talked about little techniques with the DBs, but we kept playing what was working for us, trying to get more pressure on us. Trying to get Willis to make a couple mistakes,” Oliver said.
The Linton offense never really put together a long, fluid drive, but the Golden Arrows gave them assists with a couple turnovers in their own territory in addition to poor kickoff coverage.
““We had some problems in pass pro and we just turned the ball over too much in the second half. We gave them the ball about the 20 twice. We couldn’t get off that end of the field for a while and couldn’t get anything going,” Olson said. “
Stamm caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rupska to open the second-half scoring and put his Miners ahead again.
But Sullivan’s Trevor Magill returned a kickoff 44 yards near midfield, and Willis scampered 45 yards on the first play of that drive to the Miners’ 1-yard line before sneaking in to the end zone for a go-ahead score.
After a deep kickoff, Sullivan forced a Beau Eaton fumble and extended the momentum by creating points off the turnover.
Cameron Marx, who punched it in from three yards out in the first quarter, added a two-yard TD run to extend the Arrows’ lead to 24-16 going into the final quarter.
Linton seemed to regain a spark when they forced Willis out of the pocket and into his own end zone. He was flagged for intentional grounding for a Linton safety.
The Sullivan defense forced Linton into a fourth-and-14 just inside the Sullivan 20-yard line, but Beau Eaton passed under pressure to Stamm for a 15-yard pickup. The crucial first down allowed Austin Hale to score from three yards out to tie the game at 24-24.
“That was the difference in the game right there,” Oliver said. “If we didn’t get that first down, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. We had two great athletes making plays for us. We told Beau, just get it up in the air in a good place and Grant would go up and get it,” Oliver said.
After a 5-yard penalty on the two-point attempt — Linton is still searching for a kicker in the post-Dyllanne Deischer era — Beau Eaton found Paul Goodman wide open in the end zone to put the Miners ahead.
Goodman and Zane Hayden intercepted Willis passes to contain the chance for a Sullivan rally.
Sullivan will try to move on and bounce back against a 2-0 North Knox team.
“Regardless of what happens in this game, the following week is always an emotional let down, maybe for them too. North Knox seems to be really having a good year so far. We definitely have to bounce back in a hurry,” Olson said.
Sullivan 7 3 14 0 — 24
Linton 8 0 8 18 — 34
S — Marx 3 run (85 kick), 5:03 1Q
L — Stamm 26 pass from Rupska (Hale run), 0:14 1Q
S — Kynon Johnson FG, :03 2Q
L — Stamm 27 pass from Rupska (Eaton run), 7:30 3Q
S — Willis 1 run (Johnson kick), 6:12 3Q
S — Marx 2 run (Johnson kick), 1:38 3Q
L — Safety, 7:40 4Q
L — Hale 3 run (Goodman pass from Eaton), 5:38 4Q
L — Hale 27 run (Stamm pass from Eaton), 3:32 4Q
Next — Sullivan (1-1) plays host to North Knox next Friday. Linton (2-0) plays at Wood Memorial.