Visiting North Daviess had just two offensive plays that worked Friday night at West Vigo, but it was still a fourth-quarter nail-biter before the home team finished off a 7-6 nonconference high school football victory.
The Vikings stopped a 2-point conversion with 7:06 remaining, after a miracle 82-yard pass play got the Cougars on the board for the first time.
And with less than two minutes left, a high snap on a punt attempt threatened to nullify all those defensive heroics, but Peyton Clerk had the presence of mind to keep the ball out of the end zone. The Vikings defended three end-zone passes, and North Daviess missed a field goal attempt with 1.8 seconds left.
"I knew this was going to be a defensive battle," coach Jeff Cobb of the Vikings said afterward. "[The Cougars have] a very good defense with great size. They've made tremendous strides in the last year."
The Viking defenders were very good themselves and consistently moved the Cougars backward early in the game. Coupled with Clerk's punting, that gave the home team field position most of the time, and late in the first quarter Shea Andrews picked off a pass and returned it inside the North Daviess 10-yard line.
A penalty on the return put the ball on the 3, and Dane Andrews threw a touchdown pass to DeShaun Lowe two plays later. Clae Burson's extra-point attempt cleared the crossbar by a matter of inches, but proved to be a game-winner when the night ended.
West Vigo got its first first down of the game on its next series, but nothing else. North Daviess got two first downs in the second quarter and that was all. At halftime, the yardage was even, 13-13.
West Vigo actually put three straight first downs together midway through the third quarter, but stalled at the Cougar 33. North Daviess then had its first successful play, a long pass-and-run combo that gave the Cougars first-and-goal at the 1.
First down was a 13-yard loss on a running play. A pass in the end zone was brought back by offensive pass interferene, and on third-and-goal from the 36, the Cougars threw an interception to Brandon Stroud, who brought the ball out to the 41.
That goal-line stand should have sealed the deal, and so should a West Vigo drive that included some big runs by Dane Andrews. The Vikings had third-and-goal at the 4, only to give up a sack and throw an incomplete pass.
And on third-and-10, quarterback Tanner Reed got the pass off for the 82-yard touchdown play — just as he was being hit and knocked out of the game.
With their quarterback injured, the Cougars went for a 2-point conversion run and Ethan Burgess, a huge presence in the middle of the Viking defensive line all night, smothered it for a big loss.
"We just knew if we stopped [the Cougars] there, we can win this game," Burgess said afterward — although it wasn't that simple.
Twice the Vikings were unable to pick up a first down that might have clinched the outcome. On the first, Clerk's final punt led to a Cougar drive that fizzled when Derek Hannahs knocked down a fourth-down pass.
West Vigo's next three plays led to fourth-and-2, with the Cougars out of timeouts and 30 seconds to play. Cobb played it safe and called on Clerk, but then the snap sailed over his head.
"Just run," Clerk said when asked what he was thinking about at that point. "Keep it out of the end zone [where a safety would have put the visitors ahead]. I knew what I had to do to keep us winning, and leave it up to the defense to finish it."
Clerk got out of the end zone and to the 11-yard line. Jerome Blevins defended two of the three unsuccessful passes, a host of Vikings were around the other, and a kick with plenty of distance was wide left.
For the game, North Daviess had minus 44 yards rushing, and just 100 total yards when the two long passes were subtracted.
"It was amazing," Burgess said. "We have some injured, but a bunch of younger guys had to step up and make plays. We were just flying around."
Offensively, the Vikings didn't reach 100 yards, with just a net of two yards on the ground.
"We're doing some things to ourselves that we can't be doing in Week 5," Cobb said, noting particulary the 115 yards in penalties the Vikings had. "Unnecessary penalties puts us behind the 8-ball. We've got to fix those."