After Highland officially dedicated Fishburn Family Field at Covrett Stadium on Friday, fans were treated to a thrilling back-and-forth football game between the Scots and River Valley.
Unfortunately for the locals, the final score didn’t wind up in their favor as Viking quarterback Josh Ellwood hit Dominic Ross for a 29-yard scoring pass with eight seconds remaining to allow RV to escape with a 42-35 win.
“It was back-and-forth the whole game,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “We didn’t capitalize on a couple things we should have and it cost us.”
After both the Covrett and Fishburn families were recognized before the game, the Scots came out on fire, immediately driving down the field and scoring. Max Schreiber hit Javier Vasquez for a 33-yard gain to move Highland near the red zone. Schreiber would also connect with Dylan Tuggle for seven yards to put the ball on the 15 and Jared Limings ran for 10 to set up a five-yard scoring run by Josh Cantrell. Satchel Denton added the PAT to make the score 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Later in the first quarter, the Scots fielded a punt on their own 21 and wasted no time in adding to their lead. Runs of 11 and 19 yards by Limings, as well as an eight-yard scamper by Jack Weaver moved the ball to the Viking 41 and a 15-yard late hit penalty improved that field position. Another late hit by RV on an 11-yard reception by Tuggle gave the Scots the ball on the nine and Limings would run it the rest of the way to make it a 14-0 score with 1:37 left in the opening period.
“I thought the kids played extremely hard tonight,” said Carpenter. “That’s a very good football team (RV). We knew going in, it was going to be a tough game.”
The rest of the first half didn’t work out quite as well for Highland, though, as River Valley roared back to take the lead into the half. Running back Tyler Spears provided three huge plays for his team, scoring on runs of 26, 68 and 72 yards in the second quarter to put RV up 21-14 at the half. Compounding that issue for the Scots was a pair of drives that made it into Viking territory.
With the score 14-7, a Scot pass was picked off to give RV the ball on their own 13. Later, with the Scots trailing and looking to tie the game before halftime, they got a 30-yard pass to Vasquez on a fake punt to get the ball on the Viking 33, but that drive would stall there as they turned the ball over on downs.
However, Highland would strike first in the second half to grab some of their early-game momentum back. After a defensive-minded opening to the period, the Scots got the ball on their 28 at the 5:49 mark and immediately started feeding the ball to Limings. The senior back opened the drive with a 37-yard carry and then got it six more times to move the ball to the RV three. Facing fourth-and-one, the Scots switched it up and handed the ball to Brock Veley, who scored to tie the game at 21.
Highland then forced a punt, but muffed the ball to give it back to River Valley, who didn’t squander their second opportunity, driving the remaining 30 yards on five plays. Spears scored for the fourth time in the game on a four-yard run to give his team a seven-point lead with 8:49 remaining in the game.
The Scots went back to what had been working — giving the ball to Limings — and it paid off again on a nine-play, 64-yard drive. Limings carried the ball on eight of those plays, including a three-yard touchdown that tied things up again with 5:09 to play.
However, River Valley pulled out another scoring drive, taking advantage of a fantastic catch by Michael Blevins for 27 yards on a deflected ball on fourth down. That play placed the Vikings on the Scot 12. Five plays later, Zach Warwick scored on a one-yard dive with just over two minutes to go.
That lead would be short-lived as Tuggle ran the ball back 75 yards on the ensuing kick return. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned Denton’s PAT into a 35-yard attempt, but he buried it to tie the game once again.
Unfortunately, the 1:49 remaining on the clock after Blevins took the kick to his 32 proved to be too much for River Valley. A 22-yard run by Spears brought the ball into the Highland side of the field and after a pair of short gains, Ellwood hit Hayden Wallace for 16 to get to the 28. After a four-yard gain and a five-yard penalty, the quarterback would strike again, this time for the game-winning pass to Ross.
While the loss dropped Highland to 0-3 entering league play, that didn’t prove to be an impediment to the team last year, when they rebounded from a similar winless non-conference slate to go 6-1 in Blue Division games to finish tied for the league title. Carpenter noted his team just has to keep improving if they want to duplicate that feat.
“We just need to keep playing hard, get better and learn from our mistakes and get ready for East Knox,” he said.