Fans of both the Van-Far/Community R-VI and Bowling Green football teams were taken on an emotional roller coaster ride last Friday night in Vandalia.
Like two heavyweight boxers, both teams gave their best shots for the entire 48 minutes.
Unfortunately for an Indians team that played their best game against the Bobcats in more than a decade, they came up just 1:36 short of a victory. Bowling Green scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes and held on late for the 43-38 victory. The Bobcats have won 42 of 49 games against the Indians in the history of the match-up.
“It was a very physical, fast-paced game,” said Van-Far/Community R-VI head coach Kevin Baldwin. “Our kids played hard and were in the game till the end. It’s heartbreaking when you play that hard and come up short of the victory.”
The Indians defense showed the Bobcats they were for real on the opening series. Nathan Beatty had a sack on the first play for a loss of three yards and Verlyn Johnson added a second sack two plays later for a seven yard loss.
After forcing the Bobcats to punt, the Indians’ offense looked solid early.
Van-Far/Community R-VI started the drive on their own 33. Parker Wallace had a 16-yard run before Eric Hombs completed his only pass of the game, a 15-yard connection with Johnson.
A Wallace 15-yard run was followed by Hombs’ 25-yard touchdown run. Hombs’ two-point pass to Trey Miller gave the Indians an 8-0 lead.
Bowling Green’s offense moved the ball well on their second possession, getting the ball inside the Indians’ 20. But Kyle Ebers came up big with two straight tackles for no gain to force the Bobcats to turn the ball over on downs.
A turnover later proved costly for Van-Far as a fumble gave the Bobcats the ball on the Indians’ 19. Bowling Green then converted their first of seven touchdown passes on the night, this one from 36 yards. They failed to convert for two points and still trailed 8-6 with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
Hombs’ 40-yard run helped the Indians get inside the Bobcats’ 20 but that drive ended on Josh Hodde’s missed 34-yard field goal attempt. The kick had the distance but was wide left.
A solid Indians’ defensive stand followed as Bowling Green went three-and-out. After Miller returned the punt into Bobcats’ territory, Hombs scored two plays later on a 40-yard touchdown run. His two-point pass to Miller pushed the Indians’ lead to 16-6.
Bowling Green nearly responded with a touchdown pass on their next play but Trevor Crider made a touchdown saving tackle after a 59-yard gain. Four plays later, the Bobcats scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass. Another failed two-point play kept the score at 16-12.
The Bobcats nearly returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown a few minutes later but it was called back for a block in the back penalty.
Bowling Green didn’t take long getting back into the end zone though as they marched 66 yards on four plays, scoring on an eight-yard touchdown pass to take an 18-16 edge. Hodde’s later 53-yard punt pinned the Bobcats deep in their own territory.
Beatty picked up a sack for a 10 yard loss to put Bowling Green on their own 4. He then picked up a safety on the next play to tie the game at 18-18.
With the Bobcats needing to do a drop kick from deep inside their own territory following the safety, Miller fielded a punt on the Indians’ 44 and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown.
Hodde’s kick put the Indians back in front, 25-18. Unfortunately, Bowling Green answered on the following drive that started with just 52.9 seconds left in the half.
They completed a 41-yard pass and then scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass. The kick tied the game at 25-25 at halftime.
The Indians had 15 passing yards and 157 on the ground for 172 in the half. Bowling Green had 224 passing yards and three rushing for 227.
Bowling Green’s defense set the pace early in the second half forcing the Indians to go three-and-out. Their offense followed by taking advantage of good field position on a punt return.
They scored on a nine-yard touchdown play on their fourth play for a 31-25 lead as the kick was no good.
The game became a battle of field position. Hodde had a 46-yard punt that he angled out at the four yard line.
In the fourth quarter, the Indians’ defense created a needed turnover as a Bobcat pass was tipped and intercepted by Hodde to stop a drive. On the next play, Hombs scored on an 83-yard run. Hodde’s kick gave the Indians a 32-31 lead with 9:57 left.
Bowling Green responded though with a 66-yard scoring drive after they completed four passes, the final one being a six yard touchdown.
The Bobcats led 37-32.
After the Indians went three-and-out, the Bobcats’ offense kept throwing the ball with just 4:08 left in the game. The result was Colten Jensen intercepting a pass and returning it 41 yards for a touchdown. The two-point run failed as the Indians led 38-37.
With a fourth down and four on their own 46 with 2:12 left, the Bobcats completed a 35-yard passing play. They scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass to take a 43-38 lead with 1:36 left. Hombs’ pass on the next play was intercepted and the Bobcats held on for the win.
Hombs finished the game by completing 2-of-8 passes for 15 yards and one interception. On the ground, he had 18 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Wallace had eight carries for 31 yards while Miller added seven carries for 30 yards. Johnson had one catch for 15 yards.
Bowling Green’s passing attack included 27-of-43 passes completed for 443 yards and seven touchdowns. Three receivers had more than 100 yards receiving in the game.
Up next for the Indians is a Wright City team that likes to pass the ball. The Wildcats have a .500 record. They beat Winfield 35-20 and Mark Twain 41-21. They also lost to Southern Boone 31-28 and South Callaway, 48-6.