If you like thrillers, last weekend’s tilt between Hazelwood Central and Eureka provided just that, and more.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, Eureka called on senior place kicker Bo Highfill for a 30-yard field goal try that would have capped a remarkable game for the Wildcats. However, the Hawks blitzed everyone, blocked the kick, and triumphed 23-21.
Hawks head coach Van Vanatta had seen this game-ending scenario before. Against Kirkwood in 2010, his team blocked a field goal to seal a victory. Though, Vanatta said this trumps the one four years ago.
“This is probably the most epic game that we’ve won that I’ve been a part of,” Vanatta said following the game.
Wildcats head coach Farrell Shelton echoed his counterpart’s sentiments.
“The way both teams battled there, you hate seeing a high school team lose, especially yours,” Shelton said. “I thought we battled. It [the game] literally went down to the last play.”
More than 24 hours passed between kickoff and the final play. Inclement weather caused the game to be suspended on Friday night. Shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday, play resumed.
Despite the lengthy delay, both teams picked up right where they left off, trading punches on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats’ defense forced a three-and-out on the Hawks’ opening possession of the game to grab early momentum. However, the Wildcats couldn’t capitalize on their first drive when Highfill missed a 47-yard field goal.
Another defensive stand by the Wildcats gave the offense a chance to cash in. To no avail, the Wildcats couldn’t crack the Hawks’ stingy front seven, turning the ball over on downs after going for it on fourth down.
The Hawks finally broke through on their next possession. Senior quarterback Mike Glass found his groove. Slot receiver Jordan Croft broke free and Glass threw a dart to his wideout for a 51-yard gain. The big play set up a one-yard touchdown run by Glass.
“[Glass] makes it go,” Shelton said. “They got a senior offensive line. But when you [have] a triggerman like [him], he’s gonna always put you in a good [place]. He’s a gamer.”
No matter, Eureka return man Shaun Smith took the ensuing kick 85 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.
A blocked punt by Hazelwood Central led to a 31-yard field goal from Brendan Kocurek, who hadn’t kicked a field goal in two years, according to Vanatta.
With a chance to tie the game, Highfill missed his second 47-yard field goal of the night.
The first half ended with the Hawks sporting a 10-7 edge.
Eureka took its first lead when senior gunslinger Andy Coulter fired a dart to Bobby Saunders, who outran the Hawks’ secondary for a 25-yard touchdown.
Back came the Hawks. Glass galloped 23 yards to regain the lead and the momentum. Kocurek padded the lead with a 32-yard field goal.
Once more, the Wildcats’ seniors took over. A 46-yard pass from quarterback Brett Geisz led to a seven-yard touchdown run by Cam Nisbet. The 6-foot-4 junior receiver came in motion as the ball was snapped. Geisz handed it to Nisbet who darted around the right side for the score.
A 33-yard field goal from Kocurek made it 23-21 in favor of the Hawks.
In the waning moments, the Wildcats were in good position to end it. Despite missing his first two tries, Highfill’s third field goal attempt didn’t make it past the line of scrimmage before being blocked.
“It happens,” Shelton said of Highfill’s rough outing. “He’s a first-team, all-state kicker.”
Hazelwood Central 23, Eureka 21.
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