By David Sharp
Knox County drove 72 yards in the fourth quarter for the tying touchdown with 61 seconds showing on the clock. Cody Morgenstern handled a low snap placing the football for Cameron Kirmse's extra point, providing the final point in a thrilling 22-21 come from behind win at North Shelby.
North Shelby mounted a gutsy last-ditch drive to the Knox County 20 yard line. Ethan Hustead blocked a 37 yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining inn the game, preserving the Eagles' fifth win of the 2007 season.
The Raiders (3-6, 2-5 in the conference) came out of the chute and took it to the Eagles throughout the first half. North Shelby held a 224-81 halftime advantage in total yards from scrimmage and a 21-9 halftime lead. Knox County came out with a purpose and controlled most of the second half.
This was one of the most competitive high school sporting events of the season to date. Some described the contest as an ugly game. That perception was fueled by gritty plays and heart displayed on both sides of the football.
North Shelby pounded the football down the field for the games' first score. Curt Hubbard capped a 65 yard march with a 41 yard touchdown dash at the 9:28 mark of the first quarter. Jesse Christoffer converted the kick and North Shelby held a seven point lead.
Knox County made plays to stay in the game during the first half, and to win in the end. One of those plays came on the kickoff after the Raider touchdown.
Tristan Lonberger dashed 83 yards to the end zone, pulling the Eagles within a 7-6 deficit. Knox County saw a point taken off the board when the Eagles were flagged for too many men on the field on the extra point. Curt Hubbard blocked the second conversion attempt, and North Shelby held a 7-6 edge.
The Raiders took the kickoff and picked up right where they left off. North Shelby won the battle of the trenches and raced to the KCHS eight yard line. The Raiders were assessed an illegal motion penalty.
Knox County's defense stiffened and forced a 36 yard field goal attempt. The football sailed wide of the uprights, keeping the score at 7-6 Raiders.
North Shelby stuffed Knox County's offense on the next series. Jason Bichsel sacked quarterback Cody Morgenstern for an eight yard loss, forcing a punt from deep in Eagle territory.
Alex Thrasher found Alex Daniel for a 31 yard touchdown pass, capping a 46 yard drive with 11:53 remaining in the second quarter. Jesse Christoffer kicked the extra point, putting North Shelby on top of a 14-6 lead.
Kane Simmons lit a fire under the Eagles when he rumbled 40 yards, setting up a 31 yard Cameron Kirmse field goal, trimming the North Shelby lead to 14-9.
North Shelby answered with a 58 yard touchdown drive. Freshman Alex Thrasher found Curt Hubbard for an 11 yard scoring strike with 2:58 to play until intermission. Hubbard made a neat looking move on a run after the catch, putting North Shelby up 21-9 after Jesse Christoffer kicked the extra point.
The Eagles went to the dressing room probably fortunate to only be down 12 points at intermission. North Shelby held an 11-3 unofficial advantage in first downs. The home team more than doubled Knox County in rushing yards.
North Shelby keyed on Zach Parrish, limiting the Eagle senior to only 27 yards rushing in the first half. Knox County's coaching staff delivered a pointed halftime address dedicated to getting off the football and matching the Raider's intensity.
"Coach (Steve Ramer) said that we would have to prove ourselves in the second half," said Knox County senior John Greenley. "We didn't make any mistakes. We proved to ourselves that we could come from behind and win."
Knox County took the second half kickoff and started from their own 11 yard line. "We didn't show any heart in the first half," said Eagle sophomore Cody Morgenstern. "Our line went off hard in the second half. If we wanted to win a district championship, we had to play like we did at the beginning of the year."
The Eagles hammered the football down the field, culminating in a 44 yard scoring dash by Zach Parrish at the 9:34 mark of the third quarter. The extra point kick was no good and North Shelby led 21-15.
John Greenley intercepted a tipped pass on the North Shelby 44 yard line. Jeremy Hudson pressured the passer and got a hand on the attempt. "I saw the ball flutter up in the air and was fortunate enough to come down with it," said John Greenley of the contest's lone turnover.
The Eagles had a Cameron Kirmse touchdown run called back on a holding penalty and turned the football over on downs at the Raider 40 yard line. North Shelby fans and coaches believed Knox County should have been assessed a pass interference penalty on a second half play near the Eagle goal line.
North Shelby drove to Knox County territory. Daniel Jones reversed his field on a fourth down play and followed a convoy of blockers around the left side of his line toward the end zone.
Defensive back Cameron Kirmse stood his ground and executed a great open field tackle, stopping the drive on the Eagle 27 yard line. Knox County was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty, contributing to the Eagles turning the ball over on downs at the Raider 46 yard line with 9:11 showing on the fourth quarter clock.
Knox County's defense forced a Raider punt. Knox County took the ball on their 28 yard line with 7:30 to play in the game, trailing by a 21-15 margin.
The Eagles faced a fourth down and nine situation near midfield. The fourth down pass fell incomplete. North Shelby was assessed a roughing the passer penalty on the play, setting Knox County up with a first down on the Raider 30 yard line.
Knox County moved the ball inside the North Shelby five yard line as time ran down. The Eagles forced North Shelby to use two timeouts. Zach Parrish bulled his way into the end zone with 1:01 remaining in the gut wrenching game.
A light rain had dampened the field. The score was tied at 21 all. The Eagles put the game on the talented right foot of Cameron Kirmse. Holder Cody Morgenstern dug a low snap out of the wet grass. Kirmse put the football through the pipes
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for a 22-21 Knox County lead.
Both sides battled to the final gun. The Raiders took the ball on their 14 yard line. The Eagles bottled the Raiders up even more with a quarterback sack.
Daniel Jones got the Raiders out of the field position hole with a 53 yard dash with 39 seconds to play in the game. Zach Parrish and Keenan Gillaspy helped save the game with a down field tackle. Jeremy Hudson pressured North Shelby's quarterback into an incompletion on the Eagle 10 yard line.
North Shelby moved the ball to the Knox County 20 yard line with eight seconds remaining in the game. Freshman Jesse Christoffer lined up for a game winning 37 yard field goal on first down. North Shelby's kick holder made a great play to get a low snap in position.
Knox County senior Ethan Hustead laid out and blocked the kick. The Eagles ran out the final four seconds for a thrilling 22-21 victory. Knox County guaranteed at least a .500 season, and kept their district hopes alive.
"Our offense had a let down in the second half," said North Shelby coach Terry Ahern. "Knox (County) came out fired up and ready to defense us in the second half. We ran the ball hard in the second half. We played hard. We let a couple of things get to us in the second half. We just didn't get the big plays we needed to sustain a drive."
"The kickoff hurt us," said Coach Ahern of the final Raider offensive possession. "This game is a matter of inches. If it wasn't for one (defensive) guy we could have scored on two plays. We didn't tackle well in the second half. (Zach) Parrish just slid off of us.. Special teams situations hurt us."
The Eagles have to win at defending Class 1 football champion South Shelby and North Shelby must defeat Paris for Knox County to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1995. South Shelby held on to beat Paris by one point, 28-27. The Coyotes missed a fake extra point kick late in the game.
Knox County (5-4, 4-3 in the Tri-Rivers Conference) rushed 44 times for 346 yards on the night. The participating schools provided statistics contained in this story unless noted.
Zach Parrish led all ground gainers with 36 carries for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Kane Simmons had one try for 40 yards. Cameron Kirmse went 4-23 on the ground. Keenan Gillaspy had one carry for 14 yards.
Daniel Jones rushed 22 times for 176 North Shelby yards. Curt Hubbard gained 83 yards on ten carries and a touchdown. North Shelby had 35 rushing attempts for 259 yards. Alex Thrasher was 5-10 for 94 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Knox County was 3-7 passing for 18 yards.
Alex Daniel had two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Curt Hubbard caught two balls for 29 yards and a North Shelby score. Knox County had 16 first downs on the night. North Shelby official stats listed nine Raider first downs.
"At halftime it looked like we were going to cash it in," said Knox County coach Steve Ramer. "We came out and played with pride in the second half. We fought against the position we put ourselves in during the first half. That is a huge step for us."
"Cameron Kirmse is a pretty good kicker," said Coach Ramer. "He worked hard on his kicking in practice this week. He put it through for a field goal in the first half. That last kick was a lot of pressure for a sophomore. He handled it fine."
"We condition our kids for four quarters. We just manned up and ran the football right at them on our last drive," said Ramer. "Ethan (Hustead) made a huge block at the end of the game. North Shelby has been pretty banged up in the last three weeks."
"They finally got their linemen back, that made a big difference for them," said Ramer. "North Shelby came out fired up. They played with pride. Their running backs played hard. Our kids deserved that win. They outworked (North Shelby) in the second half. They played hard."
Knox County travels to South Shelby with a shot at the playoffs. Standing in the way is all stater Ethan Harris who rushed for over 250 yards against Paris and had a defensive interception. Harris rushed for over 2000 yards last season.
Cardinal players to watch include quarterback Matt Patterson, fullback Matthew Schuman and linebacker Bryce Johnston. "We have a chance to knock off the defending state champs on their home field and be district champions," said Coach Ramer.
"We have showed small but steady improvement in big games," said Ramer. We are going to have to play mistake free football. They are a pretty good ball club."