MACKINAW — Eureka turned from givers to takers Friday, in what might be the last varsity football game played at Dee-Mack field.
The Hornets lost four fumbles in the first half, only to intercept four passes in the second. They turned three of those four picks into points en route to a 23-7 Heart of Illinois Conference Large Division victory against host Deer Creek-Mackinaw.
The win clinched a second consecutive playoff berth for the Hornets (6-2, 3-1). Dee-Mack, which will have a new all-purpose sports complex with a turf field next year, fell to 5-3 and 2-2 in the league.
“We went into halftime and basically said, ‘That half is over,’” Eureka coach Jason Bachman said. “We’re not going to think about it, we’re not going to talk about it. I told them, we obviously know we’re a better football team than what we showed these people in the first half. And our kids rose up. They came back and fought in the second half, like I hoped they would.”
Eureka outgained Dee-Mack 127-37 on the ground in the first half, but the Hornets lost three of the four fumbles in Chiefs territory.
Dee-Mack turned the one fumble recovered in Hornet land into the only points of the first half. A 34-yard pass play from Levi Scheuermann to Tylor Thompson set up Scheuermann’s 1-yard TD run and a Chiefs 7-0 lead 25 seconds left before the break.
Eureka’s defense began its second-half heroics on Dee-Mack’s opening drive of the third quarter — stopping the Chiefs on a fourth-and-2 from the Hornets 4.
A 15-play Eureka drive followed, ending in a 34-yard Austin Schrock field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Jake Bachman picked off the first of his two passes on Dee-Mack’s next drive, setting up a 4-yard TD run by Tanner Gladson (97 yards rushing) to give the Hornets a 9-7 lead.
Dee-Mack drove into Eureka territory only to have a Scheuermann pass tipped and picked off by Preston Stahl, who took it 70 yards into the end zone for a 16-7 Eureka lead.
“Kaleb Merritt, he swatted it out of the air and I just saw it hanging there,” Stahl said. “I caught it and couldn’t believe it was there. I had perfect running room and put it in.”
Bachman intercepted another pass one play later, turning it into a 1-yard QB keeper to make it 23-7 with 1:03 left in the game. Bachman ended with 103 of Eureka’s 254 yards rushing.
“Our defense rose up,” Jason Bachman said. “That’s our ironmen up front. They played both ways all night and didn’t quit. So I’m going to give this victory to that group of guys up front.”
That group includes Allen McClean, Joel Baer, Colten Veatch, Derek Brown and Merritt. Dee-Mack managed only 77 yards rushing, while Scheuermann went 7-for-23 passing for 162 yards.
“Defensively, we played well enough to win, but offensively we just weren't consistent enough,” Dee-Mack coach Job Linboom said. “I have to give Eureka credit. They really shut down our running game. They forced us to pass more than we wanted to. We tried running inside, outside, they had an answer for pretty much everything we tried tonight.”
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs