By Anthony Jones
Entering the final week of pool play, a lot was on the line for football teams in the Mississippi Valley Conference. This was no different for the battle between the Mascoutah Indians and Triad Knights. Both teams entered the week with a 2-0 record and were vying for the top spot in Pool A and the winner would secure a more favorable matchup the following weeks once bracket play begins.
A Jake Ellis kickoff started the game, setting up the Indians with the first possession of the game. Triad’s defense set the tone for the game with this drive as they quickly forced Mascoutah to punt, setting up the Knights offense with only 48 yards to the end zone.
The Knights offense led a slow and methodical drive down the field, led by several big runs by quarterback Drew Straub. The offense continued rolling until they were faced with a third and goal from the Indian’s five yard line. Triad chose to put the ball in the hands of senior fullback Sam Yager, who powered his way in for the first score of the game.
After a failed point after try, the Indians started their next drive at their own 25 with 7 minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The offense wasted no time moving down the field as Chase Hanson dropped back to pass and found Aiden Jones to move the ball to their opponent’s 29 yard line. Just two plays later, Hanson dropped back again and launched a pass towards the end zone, but the pass was intercepted by Josh Edison who showed his speed by returning the ball out to the Indian’s 30 yard line.
After being moved back near their own goalline due to a penalty on the interception runback, not much went well for Triad’s offense. They picked up minimal yardage and then disaster struck on third down as they fumbled the ball and the Indians recovered with only 10 yards to the end zone.
A few plays later, Hanson scrambled after failing to find an open receiver and nearly scored, but Edison and Andrew Gula wrapped him up just inches short of the goalline. The Indians elected to go for the touchdown on the next play, but Triad’s defense stifled the play and forced a turnover on downs.
Later on in the second quarter, the Indians would have another big fourth and short play in the red zone. The Knight’s defense proved steadfast yet again however and forced another turnover on downs to give their offense the ball back.
Their offense took advantage of the opportunity and marched down to the Indian’s 11 yard line while eating 6 minutes off the clock. Faced with a fourth and six, the team chose to send out their field goal unit onto the field. The attempt had enough leg, but went wide left and gave the Indians possession back.
Both teams would build threatening drives in the final minutes of the half, but to no avail as the score remained 6-0 in Triad’s favor at the half.
Things could not have started off worse in the second half for the Knights. A bad kick return forced them to start at their own 13 yard line. Yager then had a huge 87 yard run to the end zone, but an illegal shift penalty negated the play. The very next snap, Triad fumbled and allowed Mascoutah to take over at the Triad 21 yard line.
Faced with yet another tall task, Triad’s defense rose to the occasion. They had the Indians to only two yards and forced them to attempt a field goal. The kick was no good however, keeping Mascoutah scoreless on the night.
Mascoutah put together two more drives in the second quarter, driving to Triad’s 14 and 12 yard line. But the Knights defense was unrelenting and forced a turnover on downs from both of those spots.
The Knights kicked off the fourth quarter with a big drive of their own. They drove the ball to the Indians 12 yard line and ate 5 minutes off of the clock. Mascoutah’s defense stepped up however and forced a turnover on downs.
Both team’s traded punts, setting up Mascoutah with the ball for the final drive of the game. The Indians started at their own 34 yard line, but a couple of chunk plays moved them into Triad territory.
With 4.9 seconds left on the clock, Hanson dropped back for one last scoring attempt. He was quickly pressured by a well timed blitz by Yager off the edge, but he managed to maneuver away and heave the ball into a one on one matchup at the goal line between Christian Harms and Casey Mattea. Mattea made a great play on the ball however and swatted it away to give Triad the victory.
As one could tell by the score, Triad’s defense dominated to help secure the victory. They produced four turnovers on downs and an interception. In the third quarter alone, they made three stops after starting on their own end of the field.
Triad’s head coach Paul Bassler said on the defense’s play, “That’s our most veteran group. We have so many guys that have played for us on defense for three years, a bunch of them started as sophomores. That group there is really good, they’re pretty salty. I was very proud of them tonight. The offensive side is where I’m upset because that’s my side of the ball too.”
Following their victory, Triad clinched the top seed in Pool A. This sets them up with Pool B’s bottom seeded team, the Granite City Warriors. The Warriors will play host in that matchup, which will be held at 7:00 p.m. on April 9.
Although Granite City is 0-3 the season, they have one big element that makes them a tough opponent- they’re unknown. On the football field, the two schools are unfamiliar with each other.
“I really don’t know what to expect or anything. I know that they don’t have as many kids out and they’re struggling cause they canceled all of their underclassmen games with us.” Coach Bassler said of the first matchup between the two schools and continued, “We’ll see, we’ll have to get in and watch film on them, I’ve never even seen them play. This’ll be real interesting.”