The Switzerland County varsity football team hosted North Decatur last Friday night for Senior Night, as 12 gridders – the first group to compete for four years in Pacer football – played their final home game.
It wasn’t what the team had hoped for, however, as the Pacers fell victim to turnovers and miscues, and fell to the Chargers by a final score of 52-21.
“We played hard and came up short,” head coach Ryan Jesop said. “Turnovers killed drives that could have made this a real shoot out. A few fundamental flaws that come with a lack of experience are putting us in holes we can’t crawl out of on defense. For the seniors on senior night, I know it was disappointing. It takes a level of mental toughness, not seen often by the majority of today’s generation, to stand strong in the face of the types of odds they encountered and still keep clawing towards victory. I couldn’t be more proud of what they have endured, built, and will continue to accomplish.”
North Decatur got the opening kickoff, and Ethan Herbert ran the kick back to the 40 yard line; and from there the Chargers continued to ride the running of the sophomore tailback, with Herbert eventually scoring on a 3-yard run with 9:28 to go in the opening period. After Josh Nobbe connected on the PAT, North Decatur was ahead 7-0.
Switzerland County got a spark on the ensuing kickoff, as Will Pike raced the ball to the 33-yard line, and on the first play of the night, Jonny Thompson took the Pacers to midfield with a strong run.
From there the drive stalled, and Trystan Kielbasa came on to punt; and the Switzerland County defense then rose up, holding North Decatur without a first down and forcing a punt. But that’s when Charger head coach Steve Stirn pulled some trickery, pulling off a fake punt with Philip Fisse running for the first down. North Decatur then marched the ball downfield, and when quarterback Evan Smith connected with receiver Kyle Kramer from 5 yards out, the Chargers led 13-0 with 2:31 left in the opening period.
Again Pike had an outstanding kick return, this time weaving his way to midfield before being tackled; and moments later quarterback Casper Stow connected with Pike on a 20-yard pass play that got the offense rolling as the first quarter came to a close.
The second stanza didn’t start well, however, as North Decatur’s Kramer intercepted a Stow pass after a tip, giving the Chargers the ball on the 25. North Decatur couldn’t get its offense started against a strong Pacer defensive effort, and when the Chargers went for it on fourth down, Kielbasa blew up the play, making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage and give Switzerland County the ball.
From there both defenses stood tall; but again it was Herbert breaking free for a 42-yard touchdown run with 2:44 to go in the half that gave North Decatur a 21-0 lead after the 2-point attempt was good.
This time it was Stow who had the outstanding kick return, as the senior ran the ball back to the 45 yard line; but again the Pacers shot themselves in the foot offensively, as Stow’s pass was intercepted and brought back to midfield. Moments later a long pass from North Decatur’s Smith to Kramer took the ball down to the 5 yard line; and with 1:35 left quarterback Smith called his own number, running it in from the three, After the 2-point attempt was successful, the Chargers led 29-0 with 1:35 til halftime.
Switzerland County didn’t quit, as Stow connected with Cameron Niswander with a 30-yard touchdown pass, and Kyle Whitham’s kick was good to get the Pacers on the board, 29-7, with 30-seconds left. North Decatur took the kickoff and then took a knee to end the half, with the Chargers out front, 29-7.
Switzerland County got the opening kickoff of the second half, and after moving upfield, Stow took a huge hit on a keeper, causing a fumble that North Decatur recovered. The Pacer defense came up strong again, forcing the Chargers to turn the ball over on downs with 8:58 to go in the third quarter.
Bad luck again struck the Pacers, as another Stow pass attempt was tipped at the line, then hauled down by a Charger defender for another interception.
North Decatur again used its running game to move down the field, and again it was Smith running in from 5-yards out with 4:05 to go. The 2-point conversion was good, and the Chargers held a 37-7 lead.
There was no quit in the Pacers, and Switzerland County’s offense got rolling, as Stow hit Whitham with a 30-yard pass completion, and then the quarterback kept the ball for a run that took the Pacers down to the 10-yard line.
But again tough luck struck, as Tyler Walterman intercepted a Stow pass near the goal line, denying the Pacers a scoring opportunity. That ended the third quarter with the Chargers still holding a 37-7 lead.
North Decatur kept rolling as the final quarter got underway, with another long pass from Smith to Kramer moving the ball down to the 20, and on the play Switzerland County was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty, which took the ball halfway to the goal to the 10.
Smith then hit Hoover for a touchdown pass, and after the PAT snuck over the goalpost, North Decatur held a 44-7 lead.
Switzerland County then rolled out its aerial attack, as Stow connected with Niswander for a 43-yard completion; and moments later the Chargers were hit with a pass interference penalty that moved the Pacers to the North Decatur 26-yard line. That was followed by a Charger facemask penalty, and Switzerland County was on the 10 with a big chance to score.
The Pacers cashed in on that chance, as Thompson bulled in from the 10 for a touchdown, and the senior tailback then took the handoff and raced across the goal line for the 2-point conversion to make the score 44-15 with 6:57 to go.
Again the Charger running game took over, as North Decatur methodically moved the ball downfield, and Nick Kinker ran in from 6 yards out and then ran it in for the 2-point conversion to push the score to 52-15 with 3:15 to go.
The Pacers again pushed the ball upfield, and this time Stow connected with Pike on a 37-yard pass for a touchdown, but the 2-point attempt was denied, and that made the score 52-21 with 2:12 to play.
From there, the Chargers sat on the ball and ate away the clock, and when the final horn sounded, North Decatur had claimed the 31-point win.
Switzerland County now goes on the road tomorrow (Friday) night, as the Pacers (3-4) wrap up the regular season with a MIFC battle with Milan (6-2).
The Pacers will then enter Sectional play on Friday, October 21st, when Switzerland County travels to take on Triton Central (4-4).