YORKTOWN – Six days after losing its Homecoming game in the final 10 seconds, the New Castle High School football team ventured north Friday night to face Class 3A No. 15 Yorktown and doused some of the joy of the Tigers’ Homecoming festivities by defeating the hosts 28-21 in a Hoosier Heritage Conference game.
The Trojans improved to records of 1-1 in the HHC and 2-3 overall while Yorktown slipped to 1-2 in the conference and 3-2 for the season.
"I'm proud as heck of our guys tonight," New Castle Head Coach Kyle York said afterward. "We had to fight through some adversity and our guys could have packed it in, but we fought and battled all game and came out with a big win."
New Castle played Friday without senior starting quarterback Eli Cooper, the area’s passing leader, who had sustained some type of injury. Sophomore Tyson Lewis stepped into the role as Trojan QB and performed admirably, throwing for 188 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
"I just found out on Thursday that I would be starting this game," Lewis said afterward amid the celebration. "It wasn't under the best of circumstances, but we all banded together to get this victory. The line blocked great. It's the game of football, and it's always fun to play it."
It also was nice to see New Castle generate a running game. Junior Jon Eberhart led the visitors’ assault on the ground by carrying the pigskin 19 times for 159 yards.
It was an interesting and entertaining contest that wasn’t decided until after time had expired on the scoreboard clock.
The Trojans lost the opening coin flip for the first time this season, the Tigers chose to defer to the second half, and New Castle received the opening kickoff.
Starting at their own 30-yard line, the Trojans moved straight down the field in seven plays for their first touchdown of the night. Aided by a trio of Eberhart runs totaling 38 yards, a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Yorktown, and an 11-yard pass completion from Lewis to Quintin Boatright, New Castle moved to a first-and-goal at the Tiger one.
Lewis ran right and into the end zone on the very next play, Ian Thurlow booted the PAT kick, and the Trojans led 7-0 with 10:49 remaining in the first quarter.
"It's a tough pill to swallow when you find out you're the starting quarterback the day before a game," York remarked. "You don't have much time to prepare as the starter, but Tyson did a great job and his teammates helped him out with the plays they made."
An illegal procedure penalty on Yorktown helped stymie the hosts on their first possession, prompting a punt.
New Castle’s Brevan Thrine ran for 13 yards, but then fumbled after getting hit and the Tigers recovered the ball at the Trojan 35-yard line. However, the New Castle defense stiffened and the hosts turned the ball over on downs at the New Castle 27.
A 31-yard pass completion from Lewis to Kyle Gabbard gave the Trojans a first down at the Tiger 40. A nine-yard sack of Lewis quashed the drive, but a fine punt by Lewis pinned Yorktown at its seven-yard line.
The Tigers did generate three first downs on a drive that carried over from late in the first period to the early stages of the second quarter. But a bad snap to quarterback Mason Moulton resulted in a loss of three yards, and the hosts punted the pigskin to the New Castle 15-yard line.
The Trojan offense struck again quickly. An 11-yard Eberhart run, a four-yard Lewis-to-Boatright pass completion, and an 11-yard QB scramble by Lewis moved the ball to the New Castle 41.
On the very next play, Lewis hooked up with Aidan Bradley for a 59-run catch and run for a touchdown. Thurlow’s PAT kick boosted the Trojan advantage to 14-0 with 8:06 left in the second period.
Two penalties on Yorktown forced it to begin its next drive on its own six-yard line. But a trio of pass completions by Moulton to three different receivers and a pair of short runs generated a pair of first downs and moved the football to second-and-six at the host’s 44.
However, the next two Moulton passes lost two yards and fell incomplete, so the Tigers punted to the Trojan 22.
A Thrine run for three yards and two pass incompletions prompted the visitors to punt. The snap to punter Logan James was not a good one, James fell on the loose ball back at the New Castle two for a 23-yard loss, and the Tigers took over from there.
Moulton scored the gift TD on a two-yard run and Joey Hazen booted the PAT kick, trimming the Trojan lead to 14-7 with 3:03 remaining in the first half.
A two-yard Eberhart run and two more pass incompletions prompted New Castle to punt again, and the kick carried to the Yorktown 32-yard line.
Two Moulton-to-Adam Morrow pass completions totaling 56 yards helped move the pigskin to a first-and-ten at the New Castle 11.
Moulton threw an apparent nine-yard touchdown pass to Carter Loveless three plays later, but an ineligible receiver downfield negated the TD and moved the football back five yards.
On the very next play, Boatright pilfered a Moulton heave in the end zone with 30 seconds left before halftime.
With only half a minute left and 80 yards from paydirt, one might expect a team to just run out the clock, but Coach York was thinking otherwise.
Eberhart burst up the middle for a 67-yard run to the Tiger 13 with 16 seconds left before intermission. A bad snap to Lewis on the next play lost 14 yards, and a holding penalty on the visitors tacked 10 more yards onto that.
But with just eight seconds left before halftime, Lewis threaded a perfect throw to a streaking Boatright for a 37-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the first half. Thurlow’s PAT kick put the Trojans up 21-7 going into the 20-minute halftime period.
"I saw a hole, took my shot, and tried to make the most of it," Eberhart remarked after the game about that long run. "We fought hard all game for this win."
Coach York is known for his aggressive play calling.
"We always want to be aggressive and take chances when an opportunity arises," York said. "Jon Eberhart is a warrior and a tough kid who does a lot for us."
Yorktown gained a first down on its first possession of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs at the New Castle 43-yard line.
The hosts recovered an Eberhart fumble at midfield three plays later, and then milked 4:20 of the third-quarter clock on a drive that carried to first-and-goal at the New Castle five.
The Trojan defense, which played very well in the first half, arose again as Yorktown gained nothing on a run and Moulton threw three straight pass incompletions, turning the ball over on downs at that spot.
Three runs by Eberhart for 21 yards and two more totaling five by Thrine helped move New Castle to a second-and-seven at its 33-yard line. Two more runs lost two yards back to the 31.
The Trojans gambled on fourth down, but an attempted Lewis-to-Boatright pass fell incomplete, and the Tigers took over the ball at the New Castle 31 with 11:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On a penalty-marred march (two flags on each team), the Tigers got a 22-yard Moulton-to Loveless pass completion that helped move them to a first-and-goal at the New Castle four.
Gabbard sacked Moulton for a two-yard loss on first down, but Moulton then threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Kolton Nanko on the next play. Hazen’s PAT boot trimmed the Trojan lead to 21-14 with 8:26 left in the final period.
The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds. Starting at its own 35, New Castle utilized eight running plays and a pair of Lewis-to-Gabbard pass completions totaling 12 yards to milk slightly more than five minutes off the clock, but was staring at a fourth-and 11 play from the Yorktown 34-yard line.
After a timeout, Lewis threw a near-perfect touchdown pass to Gabbard from that spot. Thurlow’s PAT kick extended the Trojan lead back to 14 points at 28-14 with 3:18 left in the contest.
"We felt we could get behind their defense but hadn't had many opportunities to try something like that," York added. "Tyson made a great throw and Kyle Gabbard made a great catch. It turned out to be a huge play."
It took Yorktown just 1:09 to respond with its third TD of the night. Moulton threw a 37-yard pass completion to Morrow, scrambled for seven yards, and threw four and 10-yard pass completions to Loveless, the latter for the touchdown. Nanko’s PAT boot whittled the Trojan advantage to 28-21 with 2:09 left in the game.
Gavin Frazier recovered the onside kick attempt at the New Castle 46. Everyone in the stadium probably surmised that New Castle wasn’t likely to throw on its next possession.
That was true, as a bad snap caused a loss of 15 yards, and two runs lost nine more. But Yorktown had burned its final timeouts to stop the clock to get a final offensive possession.
On fourth-and-34, the Trojans punted to the Tiger 48, and an illegal procedure penalty moved the hosts back five yards.
With 52 seconds left, Moulton eventually threw pass two completions to Nanko totaling 18 yards for a first-and-10 at the New Castle 39-yard line. After two pass incompletions, nine seconds remained.
Moulton then threw an apparent 39-yard TD pass to Nanko with no time remaining. An extra point would have sent the game to overtime or a two-point conversion would have won it for Yorktown.
But a Tiger player (perhaps Nanko) got flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty, nullifying the score. Normally, a penalty on the offense on the final play of the contest ends the game.
But the officials marked off 15 yards against the hosts back to their 46, and Yorktown had another crack at it with 0:00 on the clock. Moulton’s pass fell incomplete short of the end zone, and the Trojans celebrated their victory.
New Castle travels to Delta this coming Friday to play a school it never has defeated on the gridiron.
New Castle 28, Yorktown 21
New Castle – Lewis 1-yard run (Thurlow kick)
New Castle – Bradley 59-yard pass from Lewis (Thurlow kick)
Yorktown – Moulton 2-yard run (Hazen kick)
New Castle – Boatright 37-yard pass from Lewis (Thurlow kick)
Yorktown – Nanko 6-yard pass from Moulton (Hazen kick)
New Castle – Gabbard 34-yard pass from Lewis (Thurlow kick)
Yorktown – Loveless 10-yard pass from Moulton (Nanko kick)
New Castle: Eberhart 19-159; Thrine 6-21; Yorktown: Moulton 17-30, Thomas 8-25.
New Castle: Lewis 8-16-0, 188; Yorktown: Moulton 26-44-1, 304.
New Castle: Gabbard 4-77, Boatright 3-52, Bradley 1-59; Yorktown: Nanko 10-80, Loveless 8-71, Morrow 4-106, Hazen 3-44.
Records: New Castle 2-3, 1-1 HHC; Yorktown 3-2, 1-2 HHC.