EUREKA – Trailing 26-7 with four minutes and 15 seconds left in the third quarter, the outlook appeared dismal for the Eureka football squad Friday night.
The Hornets fought back to within one possession and missed a first down deep in El Paso-Gridley territory by two yards in a 26-23 loss to the Heart of Illinois Conference division rival Titans at McCollum Field.
“It’s just that. There’s no quit from our kids,” said Hornets’ coach Jason Bachman. “We could have quit, but we did not.”
Eureka (6-4, 3-2) closed the gap to 26-21 when Jake Bachman found a wide open Alex Brittain over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Austin Schrock tacked on the point after.
Following a three-and-out, the Hornets were in business again at their own 37 with 3:43 remaining.
The hosts got it to the EP-G (6-4, 2-3) 17. On a fourth-and-nine, Jake Bachman sprinted for the first down marker, but went down at the 11, as he needed to get to the nine.
The Titans ran out the last 1:25 on the clock. On the game’s final play, Ryne Faulk went back in punt formation and ran out of bounds, which resulted in a safety.
Besides his TD catch, Brittain hauled in a 43-yarder to set up a 12-yard scoring grab from Jake Bachman to Preston Stahl on a fourth-and-five.
“They obviously sucked up to try to take away our run game,” Jason Bachman said. “They’re front four played about as well as anybody we’ve seen. They should be very proud of the way they played.”
For the first time all season, an opponent went over 100 yards rushing on the Hornets’ defense. The Titans finished at 119 with 80 of those coming from Faulk on 36 carries. EP-G took a 26-7 lead on a 27-yard run on a jet sweep from receiver Lukas Kiefer.
Eureka fell into a 14-0 hole courtesy of a high snap on punt that put EP-G at the hosts’ 9, a kick off that hit a Hornets’ player that the Titans’ Corbin Heiken recovered near midfield.
In addition, Jake Bachman was whistled for a targeting penalty after a 22-yard reception by Zach Herr. The infraction put the ball at the Eureka 8, where Dylan Reeves ran on the next play with four and a half seconds left in the first half. That gave EP-G a 20-7 lead.
“In hindsight, I should have taken the ball first,” said Jason Bachman, whose team won the coin toss, but deferred to the second half. “We thought where our defense was, we could hold them.
“The onside kick that was not supposed to be one,” he continued. “That helmet to helmet (call) was tough. That’s a good officiating crew. When they go back and see that, they’ll see he led with his shoulder. That set up the score at the half. At that point, it’s 14-7. Sometimes, it works out that way.”
Jake Bachman threw for 123 yards and added 116 on the ground over 14 carries. Eureka outgained EP-G 278 to 237, but the guests enjoyed a 16-plus minute advantage in time possession (32:04 to 15:56).