Eagles Overcome Rams Make Football Playoffs
By David Sharp
Knox County overcame four turnovers, two starters leaving the team and a speedy Schuyler County Ram team for a gritty 34-13 victory in their final regular season football game. The Eagles (5-5) went 2-1 in Class 1, District 9 play for a second place playoff qualifying effort.
The Eagles will travel to South Shelby (6-4) on Wednesday, November 2 at 7PM for their Class 1 regional contest. Scotland County (5-5) was the district champion.
The Tigers host Louisiana (4-6) in Sectional action. The winner of the South Shelby Regional takes on the winner of the Scotland County Regional on Monday, November 7 in the Sectional round.
Schuyler County (4-6) turned the football over eight times and was flagged 11 times for 140 yards in penalties. Senior lineman Joey Antal and head coach Jason Melnick were ejected from the contest in the second half.
Knox County’s defense limited the Rams to 182 yards rushing. The Eagles did a much better job of tackling than in their previous meeting, and won their share of battles along the line of scrimmage.
Schuyler County held a 279-269 edge in total yards from scrimmage at the end of the night.
The Eagles had several short fields due to turnovers and penalties. Knox County cashed in two opportunities inside the Ram 45 yard line for their first two touchdowns.
Leighton McCabe had a career game on Knox County’s Senior Night. McCabe may have set a single game school record with five pass interceptions. The senior safety led the Eagles with 14 tackles including one of two Eagle quarterback sacks.
Colton Danger had the other KCHS sack for a 12 yard loss. Jon Harder recovered two fumbles along with seven tackles. Dakota Hagar picked up a Schuyler County fumble.
“We knew it was all on the line coming into this game,” Leighton McCabe told the Edina Sentinel. “It was Senior Night. We already lost to them once. They just embarrassed us.”
Schuyler County scored five touchdowns on runs of 41 yards or more at the Ram Homecoming Game in Week 5. The conference meeting started Knox County on a four game losing streak, and was the first of four straight Ram wins.
Knox County went into the Tri-Rivers Conference game with a 3-1 record. Schuyler County was winless after playing eventual unbeaten conference champion Milan and three state ranked Lewis and Clark Conference teams.
“We came out and had some fire in us,” Leighton McCabe said. “Some of the younger players really stepped it up today. Riley Poston and Austin Haines are no longer freshmen in my book.”
Leighton McCabe started the Rams down a slippery slope of penalties and mistakes when he picked off a pass, setting Knox County up on the Ram 14 yard line with 11 minutes to play in the first quarter.
Former starting linemen Tyler Davis and Andrew Hunolt have left the team.
The Eagle pass rush harassed Schuyler County quarterback Dalton Shively on a consistent basis. Colton Danger put a hit on Shively that caused the first interception.
Donovan Edwards passed to Jared Barnard for a 17 yard touchdown toss with 10:13 remaining in the first quarter. The two point conversion failed, leaving the Eagles up by six points.
Schuyler County was limited to five first downs in the opening two quarters. Knox County had 13 first downs in the opening half. Jon Harder recovered a fumble on the Schuyler County 44 yard line.
Freshman running back Brody Moubry scored the first of two Knox County touchdowns with 7:24 remaining in the first quarter. Moubry led the Eagles with 22 rushing attempts for 109 yards.
Schuyler County converted a fourth down gamble when the Rams raced nearly 20 yards on a fake punt. The play was called back by penalty. Justin Seaton boomed a 55 yard punt to the Knox County 15 yard line.
The Eagles were stopped by a tough defensive front effort. Schuyler County got the ball on the KCHS 30 yard line. Jared Barnard made a great defensive play forcing a punt.
Donovan Edwards converted a fourth down gamble on the Eagle 34 yard line. Knox County was eventually forced to punt leading by 12 points. Leighton McCabe picked off another Dalton Shively pass.
The interception started a wild second quarter. The contest featured an unofficial 32 team possessions, 19 in the first half. By contrast there were around seven first half possessions during the Milan at Knox County game.
Drew Bruner picked up a fumble for Schuyler County. The Eagles had marched from their 30 to the Ram 25 yard line. Leighton McCabe picked off his third pass of the game on the Ram 13 yard line with 6:32 showing on the second quarter clock.
The teams recorded eight possessions in the final seven minutes of the first half. Leighton McCabe raced 13 yards to the house with 6:25 to play in the first half. McCabe ran in the two point conversion for a 20 point lead.
“The turnovers was probably close to a record in itself,” Leighton McCabe said. “We really stepped it up tonight. Other than the long run and kickoff return, we were looking at a shut out. I am just really proud of our defense.”
“We knew they were really quick. We knew if we stopped them we could get to the playoffs. We started off the season with a winning streak. We had a losing streak and we have a two game winning streak now.”
“We will see what we can do at South Shelby,” Leighton McCabe said. McCabe rushed 14 times for 107 yards for two touchdowns. Schuyler County played hard to the final buzzer.
Joey Antal grabbed a short kickoff and raced 65 yards to the house on the ensuing kickoff. Sawyer Tarr kicked the extra point for a 20-7 Eagle lead. Schuyler County forced a three and out punting situation.
All conference senior Dakota Schmitter broke contain for a 74 yard touchdown dash. Jared Barnard blocked the point after kick. Schuyler County was right back in the game at 20-13 with 3:44 to play in the first half.
“We started off with an interception on the second play. We fumbled and they capitalized,” Schuyler County coach Jason Melnick said. “We were in a hole. The next thing you know, it’s 20 to nothing.”
“We finally got on a roll, but with all the turnovers and penalties…(Leighton) McCabe had five interceptions,” Coach Melnick said. “He knew what was going on. We just didn’t play very well. We got back in the game and then Knox scored a touchdown to make it 28-13.”
Knox County reeled off a clutch 68 yard scoring drive. Leighton McCabe hauled in a 30 yard pass from Donovan Edwards. The Eagles answered in less than a minute.
Brody Moubry capped the drive with a six yard run with 3:18 showing on the first half clock for a 28-13 lead. Colton Danger caught the two point pass from Donovan Edwards.
The eventful first half was far from over. Colton Danger recovered a Ram fumble; Drew Bruner intercepted a pass for Schuyler County. Both turnovers happened around the Schuyler County 37 yard line.
The Rams marched to the Knox County 30 yard line late in the first half. Donovan Edwards made a defensive play in the last minute of the second quarter, stalling the drive.
Knox County led 28-13 at intermission. Knox County held a 152-134 halftime rushing edge. Dakota Schmitter had 137 yards unofficially at the half.
Defense dominated the second two quarters. Justin Rudd sacked Ram signal caller Dalton Shively on a fourth down and six play, setting the Eagles up on their 39 yard line. Knox County was forced to punt on their first two second half series of downs.
Jon Harder jumped on a Ram fumble, setting up another short field opportunity for Knox County on the Ram 25 yard line with 5:23 to play until the final break. Schuyler County made a great defensive stand. Another rash of turnovers ensued.
Dalton Shively picked off a pass and raced to his 33 yard line. Dakota Hagar recovered a fumble on the Ram 48. Joey Antal picked off a pass and raced 20 yards to the Knox County 32 yard line with around two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Nathan Miller recorded a three yard tackle for loss, setting up a fourth down and six on the Eagle 13 yard line. An illegal man downfield penalty resulted in a Schuyler County touchdown being called back. The score would have put the visitors right back into contention for a playoff berth.
Donovan Edwards tacked a Ram runner, wresting the football back on downs just into the fourth quarter. Knox County was the obvious beneficiary of a scoreless third quarter leading by a 28-13 margin.
After a Knox County punt, Leighton McCabe intercepted his fourth pass of the game. The Rams stood tall defensively, stopping Knox County on a fourth and five. Leighton McCabe punted to the Ram 30 yard line.
A close call on a pass interference penalty went Knox County’s way. The offensive pass interference penalty and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put Schuyler County deep into their territory.
Leighton McCabe intercepted his fifth pass of the night. The only points of the second half soon followed. Leighton McCabe raced 12 yards for a game sealing touchdown with 1:46 to play in the game.
“Leighton McCabe has played a lot of different positions on defense because of injury,” Alex VanDelft said. “We moved him back to his natural position at safety and he produced.”
“I’ve never seen a stat line like his. He had 14 tackles, a sack, one pass breakup, five interceptions and a forced fumble as well as running for over a hundred yards and two touchdowns on offense,” VanDelft said.
“He just had an outstanding game. He’s a leader on our team, a captain and he’s a driving force behind a lot of what we do.”
The two point conversion failed, leaving the score at 34-13. Knox County kicked the ball out of bounds. The Rams ran out most of the remaining time. Knox County continued a trend of mild to major upsets last weekend with a 34-13 victory.
St. Louis won the 2011 World Series in seven games about an hour after the Eagle game ended. Mizzou beat Texas A&M at College Station in overtime, marking the first time since the late 1980’s the Tigers beat a nationally ranked football team on the road.
Previously winless St. Louis Rams upset Super Bowl contender New Orleans in a game few gave the Rams a chance to compete, much less win. Knox County fans can hope the trend continues when the Eagles face a highly regarded South Shelby team in the first round of the state football playoffs.
Knox County took advantage of their opportunities, played well along the line of scrimmage and managed the clock during the second half for their second place district finish.
The Eagles rushed 46 times for 222 yards. Donovan Edwards was 2-8 passing for 47 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against.
Leighton McCabe added a 30 yard pass reception to his list of accomplishments. Jared Barnard caught a touchdown pass before being forced from the contest with a possible concussion.
The Eagles were flagged six times for 35 penalty yards. Knox County punted seven times for a 23.5 yard average.
See FOOTBALL, PAGE 12
“We finally started coming back to practice after (the first Schuyler County game). We had a lot of people missing after that game,” Eagle senior lineman Colebie Murry said.
“We came back together as a team. It showed tonight,” Colebie Murry said. “Our line was busting through on defense, getting to the quarterback. It was just all out chaos out there.”
Colebie Murry was one of eight senior football players and three senior football cheerleaders honored on Senior Night. Maybe the largest honor the football seniors could have earned October 28, 2011 was a trip to the Class 1 playoffs.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Colebie Murry said of his team traveling to South Shelby Wednesday. “Making the playoffs, going 5-5. I’m excited. I’m ready to go to South Shelby.”
Dalton Shively rushed eight times for 38 yards unofficially. The Rams had 28 carries for 182 yards as a team. Knox County was able to hold running back Dakota Schmitter to six net yards rushing in the second half unofficially. Schmitter had a 57 yard pass reception on the night.
Tad Anderson had three catches for 15 yards. Dalton Shively completed seven of 20 passing attempts for 97 yards and five interceptions against. Knox County held a 17-11 edge in first downs at the end of the night.
Justin Seaton punted twice for an impressive 42.5 yard average. Drew Bruner, Dalton Shively and Joey Antal had Schuyler County pass interceptions. Drew Bruner recovered a fumble. Colton Danger and Leighton McCabe had Knox County quarterback sacks.
Knox County blocked, tackled, took the football away defensively and made plays to win the football game. Four KCHS turnovers were the most glaring negative stat of the night.
“We are a different team than week five,” Knox County coach Alex VanDelft said.
“Our guys just came out to play. We have five different starters. We started two freshmen. Donovan Edwards came in at quarterback. We moved Leighton McCabe back to his natural positions at running back and safety.”
“Our guys were flying around having fun playing football,” the second year Knox County coach said. “They played with enthusiasm. When they lost four in a row, they just weren’t flying around.”
“They put it all together tonight. We are excited to have the opportunity to play South Shelby. We told the kids from day one that if you want to be a good team, you have to play good teams.”
“Right now we are climbing the ladder. Schuyler County is a good team. South Shelby is just that much better,” Alex VanDelft said. “If we beat them, it raises our status.”
“If we come out, fly around, have fun and cause turnovers we will have a good game.”