The Indians and Tigers combined for 1,230 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 87 points Friday night in an instant classic of a football game.
Coming into the game with the Springfield Tigers, all the locals knew of the offensive prowess the Tigers and Indians possessed. The playoff implications were alive and well. The Tigers, led by quarterback Decker Scheffler and wide receiver Isaac Fink visited the Indians and their one-two punch of a running game with Landon Strong and Jacob Berg Friday night.
What a game it was. The reality matched the hype. The Indians and Tigers combined for 1,061 total yards and 13 touchdowns and 87 points.
The Indians found themselves punting after their first possession and the Tigers’ Decker Scheffler connected with receiver Jordan Kieper for a 48-yard gain, but the hustle of Jacob Meyer and Juan Cortez forced a fumble on the tackle and the Indians took over at their own 14-yard line. Landon Strong took the first play from scrimmage 86-yards to the house for the 6-0 lead just four minutes into the game. In a span of four plays, Scheffler found Kieper for a 48-yard touchdown to tie the game at 6-6. The Indians responded with another TD from Strong, this time from 30-yards out for the 12-6 lead with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Not to be outdone by the pace of the ballgame, Scheffler connected with Isaac Fink at the goal line as Fink used all of his 6’4’’ frame on a jump ball for the score. With 4:29 remaining we had a track meet, tied at 12-12.
Shortly into the second quarter, Scheffler used Mason Rummel and the Tiger teammates to orchestrate a scoring drive that ended with another Fink touchdown and the Tigers took their first lead 19-12.
With time winding down in the first half, the Indians found themselves on defense as Springfield once again was methodically moving down the field. With just :13 seconds remaining in the half, Scheffler found Jordan Kieper for another Tigers touchdown to give Springfield a 25-12 lead at halftime.
The Indians were searching for ways to gain the momentum back from Springfield and found themselves in good fortune. As the second half began, Springfield fumbled away the kickoff and the Indians recovered at the Tigers 38-yard line. Strong would score his third touchdown of the night on a run to the right side where he had to maneuver himself around the Tiger defense. Strong also converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Kegan Heiderscheidt to make the score 25-20.
The Tigers wasted no time in their response to the Indians’ strong start to the second half. Scheffler would dial up Isaac Fink’s number once again, this time for a 60-yard touchdown to take a 31-20 lead with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
The Indians were marching down the field and faced a would-be fourth down, but a Springfield unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Indians 15 yards and a first down. The Indians took full advantage as Heiderscheidt rolled out to his left and found Berg on a screen pass for a 13-yard touchdown. The Indians would convert on the two-point conversion to make it a 31-28 ball game with just over four minutes remaining and you could feel the momentum swinging towards the Indians as they got a huge fourth down stop on the Tigers’ next drive.
As the Indians halted the Springfield offense for a drive, Jacob Berg wasted no time as he took a carry 71 yards as he busted through the line and found daylight in the secondary to give the Indians the 35-31 lead with :38 seconds remaining in the opening frame of the second half.
As the two teams battled to begin the fourth quarter, the Indians forced the Tigers to a rare punt and took over at their own 33-yard line. Landon Strong once again took things into his own hands for a 70-yard touchdown run and the Indians were in business up 42-31with 10:15 left in the game.
Nathan Walter would come up with a big interception and a long return to the Tigers 40-yard line and the Indians knocked off another four minutes on the clock. However, they failed to get one more first down and the Tigers took over with 6:51 remaining in the game.
With time winding down, Scheffler led the Tigers on a solid drive down the field that led to another Fink touchdown from 17-yards out to close the gap to 42-39 Indians, with 2:59 remaining in the game.
An onside kick attempt from Springfield went out of bounds and the Indians could not convert a first down and were forced to punt the ball back to the Tigers with 2:18 left.
As Springfield was moving the ball down the field with time ticking off the clock, Scheffler found Fink again in the endzone as Fink leaped over the defender once again using his athletic ability to come down with the catch to take a 45-42 lead with :31 seconds left in the final quarter.
The Indians never gave in. Strong would gain 29 yards on separate carries, followed by an Ethan Fischer run to set up the Indians at the 20-yard line with :03 seconds left in the game to set themselves up for a game-tying field goal. Unfortunately, the football gods had enough football for the night, as the kick was tipped and the Tigers walked away victorious 45-42 in an instant classic of a high school football game.
Landon Strong shattered the Indians’ single-game record of rushing yards in a game with 364. The record was previously held by Matt Berkner with 330 yards. Strong finished with 21 carries.
Landon credited his offensive line and is looking to get this game in the past. “My line’s blocking was awesome tonight, sad we lost this game,” he said. “But we will work hard and focus next week and get momentum for playoffs.”
Jacob Berg had 152 yards on 19 carries for the Indians.
The Indians travel to Lakeview Wednesday night, Oct. 17 before beginning Section playoffs on Oct. 23.