LAKE BUTLER - Riding a six-game winning streak, the Keystone Heights High School Indians came off a great week of practice as they again traveled, this week into Union County to take on the (5-3) …
LAKE BUTLER - Riding a six-game winning streak, the Keystone Heights High School Indians came off a great week of practice as they again traveled, this week into Union County to take on the (5-3) Fighting Tigers.
The one thing Head Coach Charles Dickinson didn’t prepare for was psychological warfare.
“You can’t let people get in your head and get you off your game,” said Dickinson. “That’s what people want you to do. If I can get you mad, you forgot about all your assignments. That’s something we have to work on and clean up.”
After two scores by each team, once the Tigers had the Indians off their game, Keystone Heights would give up 22 unanswered points as the Indians suffered their first loss, 42-14, since week one of the 2020 season.
“We had to be the most physical team tonight, and we weren’t,” said Dickinson, who travels to Bradford County Friday for round one of the region playoffs against the first team to beat the Indians. “That’s our go-to, being the most physical up front. When we are physical, we have good success.”
Winning the coin toss, Keystone Heights wanted the ball first to make a statement and they did just that with the second play of the game. Quarterback Gage Stevens (6 of 14 for 93 yards, 3 sacks and 1 interception) found John David Schenck on a skinny post down the right side. The Tigers were caught off guard as Schenck took it to the house to go up 7-0, following Ian Schofield’s point after kick.
The Tigers followed up with a 60 yard drive of their own that picked apart the Indians a few yards at a time. At 6:00, the Tigers punched in a three yard run to tie it up at 7-7.
Union County used a sky-high sideline kick to try and get Keystone Heights to cough up the ball, but failed. The Indians went right back to work with their trademark left, right, middle pounding of the rock to wear down the Tiger interior. Keystone was relentless as they drew in the Tigers, then went to the air once again, this time finding Bryson Channell for paydirt at 2:08 to go up 14-7.
On the Union County return drive, Keystone Heights fell prey to the mind games, getting their first personal foul for a late hit after a second and long stop. The additional 15 yards moved the ball to the Keystone 18. The Tigers used the same tools that the Indians used on the last six teams, pounding the ball and getting physical inside to score again at 7:56 of the second quarter on a fourth and two yards to go situation to tie the game at 14-14.
On the counter drive, the Indians were marching the ball again when they tried something new. This time Schenck went deep down the middle of the field. As Stevens was getting chased, he couldn’t set his feet and threw the ball with what he had. The pass was short and the Tigers had Schenck outnumbered three to one as they picked it off at the Union County 37 yard line. The Tigers used four runs to score again, 21-14.
On the return, Keystone Heights would have a miscue in the backfield and a tipped screen pass that was completed, but dropped for a loss, forcing a punt.
“Once you get behind the chains, it’s tough on us,” said Dickinson. “It’s like I tell the kids, second and eight, we have three more downs. When we can’t move the ball, or lose a yard, it’s that much tougher.”
The kick had the Tigers pushed back to their own 30, but Union County would only need a single pass to go up 28-14. Keystone Heights had over a minute with a timeout remaining to try and go into the half training by a single score, only to fall once again to mental mistakes and another penalty that killed the drive.
As the Indians needed a break quickly in the second half, they found it as the Tigers were driving deep early in the third quarter when Keystone Heights forced a turnover and touchback, finally stopping a Tiger drive. The luck wasn’t long lived as an Indian’s incomplete pass and two null runs had them facing a 4th and 10 punt. The kick was blocked, and touched by several players before it scooted out of bounds deep in Indian territory. With the ball on the 5 yard line, the Indians came up with two stops before the Tigers used misdirection to sneak their Quarterback around the left side for another score, 35-14.
Tyler Jenkins punched in the final Keystone points as both teams would drive and score again to finish out 42-20. Schofield’s point after was blocked.
“Next week is a big playoff game at Bradford. We have to forget this and be ready,” said Dickinson. “I saw some good things tonight. What bothered me was we had a lot of missed assignments. Our tight end ran a route when it was play action and he needed to stay home and block. I was wondering where the pressure was coming from on the sacks. Something we’ll fix this week. Beside Bradford, this was the best team we would face all year.”