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BATTLING FOR VETERAN'S HARDWARE

IN PURSUIT - Eureka's Coleton Janssen (No. 4) pursues Fieldcrest ballcarrier Jaxon Cusac-McKay (No. 23) during the Veteran's Bowl contest Oct. 18 in Minonk. The host Knights came on top, 21-17 (For the Journal/TNT Photo).

MINONK – It’s a shame Eureka and Fieldcrest are in different football classifications because another meeting could produce a second instant classic.

The two county and Heart of Illinois Conference large division foes locked horns on Oct. 18, which saw the host Knights knock off the Hornets 21-17 at Veteran’s Park. The win also gave the hosts possession of the Veteran’s Bowl trophy for the first time in four tries.

“It’s pretty special,” said Fieldcrest coach Derek Schneeman of getting back the trophy. “The rivalry we have with Eureka is special. Our communities are natural rivals. When you have two of the top HOIC teams in the standings, it’s going to be pretty physical. It was one of the best high school games you’ll ever see from start to finish.”

The Knights (8-0, 4-0) reclaimed the lead at 21-17 when Kenton Castrejon hauled in a 33-yard pass from Cory Land. Jacob Joyal tacked on the point after with three minutes and 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Hornets (6-2, 2-2), who did not get into the end zone in the first half, found paydirt twice in the third period. Matt Martin tossed a 15-yarder to Aden Sears (four catches, 100 yards) and Cade Gold’s point after gave Eureka a 17-14 advantage, the first time Fieldcrest has trailed this season.

“We came out the way we wanted to in the third quarter,” Hornets’ coach Jason Bachman said. “Our passing game is legit. We do have to run it some.”

After they got on the board at 7-3, Fieldcrest executed a pooch kick early in the second quarter, which was recovered by Hunter Wyss.

“It was planned,” said Schneeman. “It’s kind of a low risk situation. We kicked it from the 45.”

According to Bachman, it is a common trait utilized by the hosts’ special teams.

“They did what we expected them to do,” he commented. “If you watch film, they do it all the time. We were not aligned for it,”

Keeping possession, Fieldcrest reached the end zone courtesy of an 18-yard gallop by Kenton Castrejon (27 rushes, 85 yards) and Joyal’s point after for a 14-3 lead.

Eureka had a chance to take the lead in the fourth period. Down 21-17, they got into the red zone, but a holding penalty moved the ball from the Fieldcrest 18 to 28. The drive stalled and the Hornets summoned Gold, who made one earlier from 42, in to attempt a 45-yard field goal, which was blocked by Keegan Robbins.

The Knights promptly used up the remaining eight and a half minutes on the VP clock. They ran 15 plays for 53 yards and converted all four third down conversions with the most important being a 13-yard reception by Castrejon off a pass from Matt Lorton on a third-and-eight at their own 49. The guests were unable to stop the clock with no timeouts left.

“I could not be more proud of our guys,” said Schneeman, referring to the clock-controlling series. “That’s mostly a four-minute offense we were running. It was two four-minute offenses. We did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Fieldcrest prevailed despite getting outgained for the first time all season (262 yards to 255).

Martin ended up with 164 yards through the air and 92 on the ground via 17 carries.

“We fought hard and battled adversity,” said Bachman, whose team trailed 14-3 at halftime. “We left some things on the field and had some penalties that cost us. We’ve got to learn from that.”

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