BROOKVILLE — With great optimism, the New Castle High School football team opened the 2022 season Friday night against host Franklin County.
The Wildcats had more total net yards rushing and passing (375) than their guests (154), but the Trojan defense had five takeaways, and that was the difference as New Castle took a win 18 -12 in overtime.
“We didn’t play a perfect game and hardly anyone does,” New Castle head coach Kyle York said afterwards, “but we made the plays we needed to get the win. I’m really happy for our seniors, who came out and led us to a victory against a very good physical football team who are going to win a lot of games this season.”
It didn’t take long for the Trojans to score, as Aidan Bradley received the ball on the opening kick-off at New Castle 22 and rolled down the middle, then veered to the right, past the County pursuit. Franklin to complete the 78-yard touchdown.
The race for the two-point conversion fell through and the visitors led 6-0 with just 13 seconds left.
The Wildcats responded by setting up a seven-play, 59-yard drive to tie the game. The big plays on the walk were a 17-yard springboard from quarterback Quinn Gillman who took the ball to New Castle 19, and a 19-yard run left on optional ground by Brady Morehead on the very next play for the TD.
A pass for the two-point conversion failed and the score was tied 6-6 with 9:32 left in the first quarter.
The Trojans recorded a first down on their next possession before heading to the Franklin County 14-yard line.
Aided by 40-yard and 17-yard runs from Morehead and a 24-yard pass from Gillman to Terrell Beesley, the Wildcats marched to a first-and-10 at New Castle 17.
But two runs went just five yards, two passes were blocked by Trojans’ Gavyn Whitehead and New Castle took the ball back on his 12-yard line.
The Trojans punted again on their next possession, and New Castle’s Haidyn Bulmer recovered a fumble on the Trojan 28-yard line after Morehead gained 11 yards before spitting the pigskin with 40.8 seconds to play in the opening period.
That’s when New Castle started training for his second TD of the night. Aided by 12-yard runs from Jon Eberhart and eight yards from Brevan Thrine, plus a 34-yard pass from quarterback Tyson Lewis to Quintin Boatright, the Trojans faced second and second at Franklin County 11.
Lewis threw a pass to Bradley on the very next play for the touchdown. A poor ball snap prevented any PAT attempts, and the visitors led 12-6 with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter.
Neither team got a first down on their next two possessions, resulting in two punts apiece.
After New Castle’s fourth punt of the night, the Wildcats began a drive from their own 39-yard line. Aided by a 17-yard run from Morehead and a 24-yard pass from Gillman to Jack Seals, the hosts had a first down on the 24-yard Trojan line late in the second period.
But a pair of incomplete passes, sandwiched around a four-yard pass, left Franklin County watching fourth-and-six of 20.
Morehead was tackled scoreless on fourth down, New Castle exhausted the final 13.1 seconds and took a 12-6 lead at intermission.
Much of the third quarter was a turnover party, and after that neither team could do much offensively.
The Wildcats kicked off the second half, recorded a first down on a Gillman pass to Beesley from 23 yards out, but Whitehead then stole a Gillman heave at Trojan 22.
Nine-yard runs each by Lewis and Eberhart generated a first down on the visitors’ first down in the second half. But two plays later, a Lewis pass was caught by Gillman at the Franklin County 30-yard line.
The hosts got two first downs, one on a 15-yard run from Peyton McCreary, and moved to a first-and-10 at New Castle 37.
But two plays later, Gillman’s pass was caught by Landon Semler and returned to the Wildcat’s 49-yard line.
A bad ball snap for a 16-yard loss sent New Castle back to his 35-yard line, and he pitched again three plays later to Franklin County 24.
The hosts only gained seven yards, punted again and Boatright returned the 26-yard kick to the Wildcat 43.
However, the Trojans fell back again, as two runs down seven yards and a holding penalty returned the ball to the New Castle 38. The visitors kicked again and the hosts took over at their 31-yard line with 11:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Morehead went for 24 yards on the Wildcats’ next drive but spat the pigskin when he was tackled and Thrine recovered at New Castle 45.
A pass from Lewis to Boatright wasted two yards, but Eberhart ran for 21 yards to Franklin County 36 for a first down.
The visitors fumbled for the ball in the next play and Franklin County’s Spencer Bath got it back at the Wildcat 38 with 10:29 left in the final period.
Aiden Hargrave tackled Morehead for a loss of three yards, but a 12-yard run from Gillman set up a fourth and two plays at 46. The hosts got the first down on a six-yard pass from Gillman to Seals that took the bullet to Trojan 48.
Three plays later, Moreland spun left on an optional play and edged New Castle defenders for a 41-yard getaway. Despite two penalties against the Trojans, the Wildcats were unable to get the ball into the end zone for the extra points against the strong New Castle defense (which proved important), and the score was blocked 12- 12 with 6:30 to go. in the last period.
The Trojans lost 11 yards in their next drive and kicked 29 from Franklin County. The Wildcats gained just eight yards on their next drive and returned the ball to New Castle.
The Trojans got the ball at their 25 with 2:09 remaining in the game. A trio of runs from Eberhart totaling 33 yards generated two first downs and moved the pigskin to the Wildcat 42.
However, a run lost a yard, a holding penalty set the visitors back another 18 yards, another bad snap lost another 14 yards and New Castle faced third and 43 yards on their 25-yard line.
Eberhart ran for 20 yards and another fine Bradley punt went to Franklin County eight when regulation time expired, so the contest went to overtime.
New Castle won the toss and opted to switch to defense to start the overtime session.
Morehead gained five yards on first down, but Gillman’s pass down the left side was then caught by Whitehead in the end zone.
“I didn’t play last year due to injury,” Whitehead remarked, “and I wanted to make sure I contributed this season. It was a real team win and we worked hard all summer for times like this.”
The Trojans got the ball back and Eberhart was tackled for a two-yard loss on first down. On the next play, Franklin County was called for pass interference, moving the ball to the seven.
Eberhart gained two yards on a run, and a four-yard pass from Lewis to Boatright left New Castle watching fourth-and-one on one.
Behind excellent blocking, Eberhart charged into the end zone in the next game for the 18-12 victory.
“The O line played really well and our whole team came together to get this win,” Eberhart said afterwards. “Winning is the most important thing and I knew I had to put the ball in the end zone on this game. We hope to have a very good season.”
“Jon Eberhart is a warrior,” York said. “I told our other coaches that we would give the ball to our best player and he would win it, and he did.”
The Trojans are at home at Neal Field four of the next five games and will host perennial Class 2A gridiron powerhouse Triton Central on Friday night.
“We’ll go back to work to fix our mistakes and then we’ll go back to play another very good football team next Friday,” York added.
New Castle 18, Franklin County 12 (OT)
New Castle – Bradley 78-yard kickoff return (failed run)
Franklin County – Morehead 19-yard run (missed pass)
New Castle – Bradley passes 11 yards from Lewis (bad shot; no PAT attempt)
Franklin County – Morehead 41-yard run (run aground)
New Castle – Eberhart 1-yard run (no PAT attempt)
New Castle: Eberhart 19-130; Franklin County: Morehead 26-199, Gillman 16-64, McCreary 6-32.
New Castle: Lewis 5-17-1, 50; Franklin County: Gillman 7-17-3, 81.
New Castle: Boatright 4-39, Bradley 1-11; Franklin County: Beesley 2-47, Seals 2-30.
Records: New Castle 1-0, Franklin County 0-1.
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