Late stop seals Upper Sandusky win

UPPER SANDUSKY – With Seneca East in town, there was a lot of orange and black in Upper Sandusky Friday. So much of it that a cool late summer evening could have been mistaken for Halloween.

But the game on the field between the Tigers and Rams was no horror flick. More like an edge-of-your-seat, action-pack thriller.

After trading the lead back-and-forth all night, the fate of the game came down to one play.

With 4:03 left on the fourth quarter clock, Seneca East’s Ethan Caudill threw his fourth touchdown of the night, a three-yard pitch-and-catch to Adam Hall on a fourth-and-goal play, which brought the Tigers within one of the Rams at 28-27.

Tiger coach Ed Phillips had a decision to make: tie the game up, or go for the win.

Phillips sent his offense back out for the two-point conversion. Caudill dropped back and went to hit a receiver on a slant over the middle.

“All night their quarterback was looking straight to where he was throwing and I knew that,” Upper Sandusky linebacker Tylor Pritchard said. “They burnt me a couple times on that same exact play; they run that slant right inside of me. This time I saw it right away out of the corner of my eye. I just stepped up and (Caudill) was looking at him and I knew I had a chance to knock it down.”

And that’s what he did. Pritchard broke up the pass and preserved the lead.

Four minutes still remained on the clock, but Pritchard soon ran them all off. From his quarterback spot, he picked up several critical first downs to seal the 28-27 win for his team.

“It feels good. I’m exhausted, everyone is. That was just a grind-it-out game, got to keep grinding,” Pritchard said.

“I feel like it’s on my shoulders to put the team in a winning position there,” he added. “I know when I’m tired, I have to start making plays even more. The guys have confidence in me, Coach has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself ’cause of those guys.”

The night featured many big plays on both sides, but none was bigger that the two-point conversion stop.

“That was their go-to play in the first half, was that little dink-dunk over the middle and you go with what got you there, you go with your best,” Upper Sandusky coach Jake Moyer said. “That was their best at that time. (Phillips) cannot be criticized for that call. He did what we felt was right at that point in time, give him all the credit in the world.”

Having a feeling what play was coming, Moyer put his players in position to make the stop.

“We really read our keys very well is what we did,” he said. “And we kind of suspected that that was coming so the linebackers were really looking for the guys coming off the edge there, near the tackle box and that was what we were looking for.”

Phillips said the choice to go for two was obvious.

“We came to win,” he said. “That’s what I told the guys in the locker room beforehand. I said ‘I feel like Rocky Balboa when he was fighting the Russian.’ … Ain’t nobody in God’s green earth thought we could win this game. I told them we could. I said we were going to come in and we were going to swing haymakers. And that’s what we did.

“To look at it a little more analytically, the short field was their game. I felt like you go to overtime with them on a 25-yard field, that’s advantage them. We felt like we had what we wanted there, and we did. (Pritchard) made the play.”

That wasn’t the only play of the night Pritchard made. Pritchard also had an interception return for a touchdown, 151 yards rushing, 116 yards passing and two more offensive touchdowns – one on the ground and one through the air.

But the second biggest play of the night perhaps came from Will Adelsperger. With the game knotted at 21 early in the fourth, Seneca East had to punt the ball away deep in its own end. Adelsperger found a seam and came up with a block, setting up the Rams on the Tigers 3 yard line. Two plays later, Pritchard plunged into the end zone to give the Rams the lead.

“I have a lineman that pushes the guy out … I shot the gap and got a hand up and got it,” Adelsperger said of the punt block. “Wouldn’t happen without the line.”

“That is [USHS assistant] coach Russell Hall. That’s his specialty,” Moyer added. “He did it all last year with our kids. Coach Hall did it again tonight. He’s the master of the kick game.”

The game featured two of the area’s best quarterbacks in Pritchard and Caudill, and the battle didn’t disappoint.

Caudill completed 29 of 41 passes for 292 yards and four scores. Caudill was 5-for-5 for 81 yards on the team’s opening drive, hitting Hall from 24 yards out for the game’s first score.

After two Upper Sandusky touchdowns – a 23-yard rush from Adelsperger and a 40-yard interception return from Pritchard – Caudill marched his team 80 yards and hit Alex Scheiber for a three-yard score to tie the game at 14 before halftime.

“The last thing I told the kids before we came out, I said we’re going come out and sling the ball and were going to have some fun. And that’s the way they played,” Phillips said. “They came out and they had some fun. They played like they were in the backyard and they made plays. It was a fun game to watch, it would’ve been ever funner if we had two more points.”

Coming out of halftime, Caudill again connected with Scheiber to put Seneca East back in front, but Upper Sandusky quickly answered with a 10-play drive. After nine-straight runs, Pritchard tossed an 18-yard pass to Alex Kenner for a touchdown to tie the game again.

“There’s no hype about that kid. He’s better than good; he’s something,” Phillips said of Pritchard. “Our kids found out tonight that we’re a better-than-good than football team too, and we don’t have to take a back seat to anybody. We just missed out on one tonight.”