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Football Recap: Knights escape after long run, FG at buzzer

Farmington running back Kaesen McClain carries the football during first quarter action against Jackson on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Farmington. (Matt King, mking@dailyjournalonline.com)

FARMINGTON – After struggling to finish drives against a stout Lift for Life defensive front on Friday night, the Farmington football team appeared content to ease into overtime.

But junior workhorse Kaesen McClain finally found a crease up the middle, and raced 61 yards to flip field position in the closing seconds of regulation.

Ian Zohner booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired, and the Knights escaped with a 17-14 victory over the Class 2 state-ranked Hawks.

The kicking game ultimately factored into the conclusion for both teams. Lift for Life pulled even on a touchdown catch with 1:25 remaining, but the ensuing extra point was blocked by Connor Rice.

Farmington (4-1) showed little urgency to attack from deep in its own territory until being sparked by McClain, who finished with 144 yards on 27 carries.

The Knights snapped an 8-8 tie on an 11-yard option keeper by quarterback Brett Drye with 8:08 left after he earlier gained 12 to move the chains..

Zohner was wide left from 38 yards on the previous snap, but the Hawks incurred a costly personal foul penalty for leaping over the Farmington protection in field-goal formation.

The Knights forced a key turnover on the next series. Running back Xavier Gines broke a couple of tackles and changed directions before Gabe Giuliani stripped the ball and Mason Probst recovered.

But a chop block moved Farmington backward from the positive side of midfield, and Lift for Life (3-2) held when defensive tackle Antrell Clay stuffed a fourth-and-4 run in the backfield.

Malik Matthews exploited a blown coverage moments later and caught a perfect 40-yard strike from Kishon Hill behind the secondary for the tying touchdown.

Matthews made six receptions for 114 yards overall. Hill completed 9-of-17 passes for 122 yards, and Gines rushed 14 times for 80 yards.

Defense shined brightest during the scoreless first half. Farmington stifled the visitors to just 36 total yards before intermission.

But the Knights stalled three separate times without obtaining points after reaching the red zone, twice hampered by holding penalties.

They overcame two sacks by Korey Phillips on back-to-back plays when Tatem Tinsley zipped an 18-yard pass to Sam Woodson on fourth-and-14 during the opening possession.

Lift for Life eventually stopped another fourth-down throw, and later got an interception near the end zone from safety Mikell Burden in the second quarter.

Farmington threatened again after an illegal man downfield wiped out a 34-yard pass by the Hawks, and Tinsley returned an interception 30 yards to the Lift for Life 19.

But the 0-0 score was preserved when a crowd of defenders thwarted a Farmington sneak at the goal line on the final snap of the half.

Lift for Life found more success on the ground in the third quarter, and a 32-yard catch down the left side by Matthews set up a 23-yard touchdown by Gines to break the scoring drought.

Farmington responded with a 75-yard march that consumed nearly eight minutes and included two separate fourth-down conversions on powerful runs by McClain.

Giuliani scampered to the left pylon on an option pitch for a 9-yard touchdown, and McClain tacked on the tying two-point run with 9 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Tinsley alternated series at quarterback with Drye, who tweaked an ankle one week earlier against Sikeston, and completed 3-of-5 passes while adding 63 yards on 14 carries.

Bryce Kathcart made two early tackles for loss, and Damian Cabrera made an open-field stop that prevented Gines from breaking away in the second quarter.

Woodson had three receptions for 36 yards. Farmington returns to SEMO North conference action next Friday at Cape Central.

Valle Catholic 54, St. Vincent 0

PERRYVILLE, Mo. – Valle Catholic limited St. Vincent to negative rushing yards and four total first downs while rolling to a 54-0 road victory on Friday night.

The Warriors picked up two defensive scores on an interception return by Colin Henderson and fumble return by Grant Fallert, and took a 41-0 advantage into halftime.

Alex Viox and Rylan Fallert registered touchdown runs, and Tyler Gegg made a team-high four catches for 83 yards to bolster Valle Catholic (4-1).

Grant Fallert completed 10-of-20 passes for 148 yards, and opened the scoring with a 44-yard strike to Gegg. Fallert also gained 99 yards on 10 carries with another touchdown.

Isaac Basler provided a 35-yard touchdown catch, and booted 7-of-8 kickoff into the end zone. Wyatt Fallert added a long scoring pass to Kellen Tucker after intermission.

Valle Catholic forced four turnovers from St. Vincent (2-3), including a fumble recovery by Carter Viox and interception by defensive end Cohen Gibbs on a screen.

Preston Lurk, Zach Naeger, Andre Oberle and Gibbs each produced one sack as well. Oberle collected seven tackles at linebacker, and Josh Fallert made six stops.

The state-ranked Warriors face back-to-back conference showdowns over the next two weeks. They travel to Central on Friday in a rematch of last year’s district championship game.

Mt. Vernon (Ill.) 28, North County 14

MT. VERNON, Ill. – The North County defense shut down first-time opponent Mt. Vernon (Ill.) through nearly three full quarters on Friday night.

But the Rams turned to Nevontae Nesbit for three long touchdown runs covering 53, 41 and 38 yards during in the final stanza, and held off the visiting Raiders 28-14.

Mt. Vernon (3-2) forced two turnovers and got a tying 25-yard scamper from Jhymear Smith-Henson with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter.

North County (1-4) relied heavily on its passing attack while being held to just 38 rushing yards overall. Zane Huff netted 33 yards on 10 carries, and also grabbed three receptions.

Quarterback Henry Allebach connected on a 9-yard touchdown toss to Jonathan Wruck to make it 21-14, but Nesbit answered with the clinching score.

The Raiders jumped ahead 7-0 when Carson Logan found the end zone from 2 yards out on fourth down in the second quarter.

Allebach completed 21-of-33 passes for 188 yards. Wruck totaled 71 yards on five receptions, and Brice Varner equaled his five catches.

Aaron Cook added four receptions for 39 yards, and Ashton Goad made three for 27. North County returns to conference action in week 6 against Festus.

Potosi 27, Fredericktown 14

FREDERICKTOWN – Sophomore Noah Walton provided the special teams spark with a touchdown off a punt return, and Potosi beat Fredericktown 27-14 as both teams sought their first win Friday night.

Luke Brabham added a long touchdown run, and threw a touchdown pass to Thomas Lambing as the visiting Trojans surged to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

The Blackcats answered just before halftime as Noah Holland caught a touchdown pass from Easton Wood with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Potosi (1-4, 1-2) benefited from two interceptions by freshman Carter Pyatt, the second of which occurred on the first snap of the fourth quarter.

Wood still brought Fredericktown (0-5, 0-3) closer with 7:36 remaining on a scoring keeper. But Brabham responded with his second rushing score to seal the outcome.

Potosi wraps up MAFC White Division play in week 6 against Ste. Genevieve while Fredericktown travels for a non-conference game at De Soto.

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