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Biehl Bomb to Blair Bursts Titan Bubble
Oct. 3, 2007 - Although it didn’t result in any points right away, a blocked punt by Knightstown with less than six minutes to play in the game likely set the stage for a dramatic finish in a 13-6 Panther victory over rival Tri High Friday night.
Knightstown scored the winning points with just 51 seconds to play in defeating the Titans for the 11th time in the last 15 games between the two longtime rivals.
On third-and-14 from the Titan 28-yard line, Panther quarterback Brice Biehl rolled to his right. Immediately he was in the grasp of Tri’s 6-4, 255-pound defensive end Patrick Horselooking, who had been haunting the quarterback all night.
But Biehl somehow kept his balance and broke away from Horselooking, stepping back to his left. He lofted a long pass into the right corner of the end zone to sophomore Levi Blair. Blair went high into the air to snag the ball and put the Panthers up 13-6 with less than a minute to play in the game. The huge Knightstown crowd went nuts.
The play ended a defensive chess match between Panther Coach Bob Prescott and Titan Coach Bryan Peggs. Both coaches had changed up strategies at halftime and shut down the other team’s offense for most of the last two quarters.
But the play that set up the winning points occurred on the previous Titan possession. Knightstown had turned the ball over on downs at the Tri 26, and the Titans had eight minutes to score in a 6-6 game. Facing a third-and-one at the 35, the Titans went up the middle when Brad Carrender and Nick Hochstedler came blasting through the line for make the stop and force a fourth-and-three. Tri had to punt, and the crucial play followed.
The Panther front four cut through the Titan line and blocked the punt. Defensive line stalwart Kyle Freeman pounced on the ball at the Tri 25.
Knightstown drove the ball inside the Titan five before fumbling with just 2:47 to play. But the blocked punt would prove to be a major player on the ensuing series.
Hochstedler and Zach Lake stopped Eric McNew for a loss, and the Panthers forced another Tri punt on fourth-and-11 with 1:19 to play.
Tri, remembering the blocked punt, kept everyone in on the line to prevent a repeat performance, and that opened up the opportunity for a nice return. Biehl took the ball from the Titan 45 and returned it 21 yards to the 24 with 1:09 showing on the clock. The return capped a crucial series of plays.
“The pressure on Tri’s punting game had to be tremendous,” Prescott said. “We had already blocked one kick and that had to be on their minds. We had a nice return, and that was huge. We also had a couple of big defensive stands in this game and those just showed what these kids are capable of when they execute.”
Needing 24 yards in 69 seconds, the Panthers immediately looked to throw the ball. Biehl dropped back to pass and was immediately sacked at the 28, forcing Knightstown to burn a time out with 1:02 to play. On the next play Biehl’s pass was knocked down by Ross Stewart to force a third-and-14 with 58 seconds to play.
But on the next play, Biehl rolled right and was met by Horselooking, who had him by the arm and appeared to be ready to complete the sack. But Biehl broke away and threw the touchdown pass to Blair, who made a great catch among traffic in the end zone.
Prescott knew two things would have to happen on the play, and they did. One, Biehl would have to do something to create enough time to throw the ball, and two, Fleanor, Tri’s multi-talented defensive back, would need to be out of the picture.
“I told Brice to find where number 87 (Fleanor) was on defense and throw the pass to the other side of the field,” Prescott said. Fleanor had lined up on the left side, so Biehl rolled right, only to again be greeted by Horselooking. But the quarterback somehow managed to free himself from the defensive end, who was eight inches taller and had him by more than 100 pounds.
The game marked the return of Trey McColley to the Knightstown lineup, but he was unable to finish the game. The big fullback carried the ball 23 times and gained 71 yards, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter that spotted the Panthers a 7-0 lead. But McColley re-injured his right foot, which had been broken in the season opener, and did not return for the last 10 minutes of the game. The foot was not broken again, but his status remains day-to-day.
Knightstown had several big plays in the game. In the first quarter, Brett Morris tipped a Titan pass that Biehl intercepted, ending a Tri drive. Defensive end Justin Sanders recovered a fumble, and defensive back Aaron Forshey intercepted a pass on the final Tri drive and secured the victory. Pearson had a monster pass reception, good for 23 yards, which kept a drive going near the end of the third quarter.
Then again, there was that momentum-changing blocked punt.
Those plays enabled the Panthers to win the turnover battle for the first time this season, keeping Tri from establishing consistency.
“That’s something we talked about at halftime,” Prescott said. “That was a rugged first half, and as bad as we had played, we were still ahead. Tri does a lot of things very well and they were a quality opponent. But we never panicked – even when they were gouging us – and we responded with some big plays when we needed them.”
Knightstown took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter following a1 11- play, 59-yard drive that consumed 5:41 of game clock. The drive was highlighted by an early 15-yard run by McColley, and a crucial 14-yard pass from Biehl to Blair. McColley kept the drive going by picking up four yards on a fourth-and-one play, and Biehl made a tremendous fake on a 15-yard gain to the Titan one.
McColley took the ball in from there to put the Panthers up 6-0.
Knightstown had dodged the bullet at the end of the first half. Ethan Pearson’s 47-yard punt saddled the Titans back at their own 18-yard line with 1:11 left in the half. Then Tri quickly moved the ball from its own 18 to the Panther 12 in just one minute. Quarterback Coy Hansen hit Michael Fleanor for 19 yards, and Stewart ran a delay draw for 21 more. A screen to Zak Wagner picked up 15 more and Tri was at the Panther 28 with 27 seconds left in the half.
Biehl saved a touchdown by knocking down a pass in the end zone, but Hanson went back to Wagner for 15 more yards to the 12 with nine seconds to play. Hanson then threw to the corner of the end zone for Kyle Carter, and Blair was there to knock the pass down and end the first half.
The Titans struck quickly in the third quarter, giving Panther fans a taste of déjà vu. On third-and-seven, Hanson threw a bomb down the middle of the field to Fleanor, who caught the ball in stride for a 68-yard scoring strike with 10:26 to play in the third quarter. The play was identical to the three long scoring passes Tri ran on the Panthers in the playoffs last season.
That tied the game at 6-6, but the Titans would not threaten to score again the rest of the game. Now 4-3 on the season, the Panthers will host Lapel Friday night for a chance to win the White River Athletic Conference championship outright. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
BY THE NUMBERS
Tri High 0 0 6 0 - 6
Knightstown 0 6 0 7 - 13
K – Trey McColley one-yard run (8:24 first quarter), kick failed, 6-0.
TRI – Michael Fleanor 68-yard touchdown reception from Coy Hanson (10:26 second quarter), kick failed, 6-6.
K – Levi Blair 28-yard touchdown reception from Brice Biehl (0:51 fourth quarter), Jordan Hauk kick, 13-6.
First Downs = 11 (K), 15 (TRI) Rushing-yards = 41-124 (K), 36-171 (TRI)
Passing (comp-att-int) = 5-8-0 (K), 8-17-2 (TRI) Passing yards = 84 (K), 134 (TRI)
Total yards = 208 (K), 305 (TRI)
Punts-yards = 4-159 (K), 3-89 (TRI) Punting net average = 39.7 (K), 29.7 (TRI)
Penalties-yards = 5-35 (K), 2-15 (TRI) Fumbles-lost = 4-2 (K), 4-2 (TRI)
Time of Possession = 24:02 (K), 23:58 (TRI)
Individual offensive leaders
Rushing: Trey McColley 23-71 yards, 1 TD; Brice Biehl 13-31 yards; Lane Fields 3-11 yards; Levi Blair 1-8 yards; Travis Titus 1-1 yard.
Passing: Brice Biehl 5-8-0, 84 yards, 1 touchdown.
Receiving: Blair 4-61 yards, 1 touchdown; Ethan Pearson 1-23 yards.
Punting: Ethan Pearson 4-159 yards, 39.7 average.
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