Two late touchdowns spoiled Pacific’s comeback at Festus Friday.
Tigers running back Logan Uding finished with four touchdown runs in the contest, including two in the final minute as Festus (4-3) defeated the Indians (4-3), 35-21.
A pair of first half scores, one by Uding and one on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Austin Coale to RaShaun Hyde, the Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead. It could have been worse as in between the scores, Uding broke a long run for around 50-60 yards. However, Matt Strong chased him down and stripped the ball at the end of the play, which was recovered by Max Meadows.
The Indians couldn’t capitalize on the momentum from the turnover though and had to punt the ball back to the Tigers. The next drive ended with the Hyde touchdown catch.
On Pacific’s next possession, Strong took matters into his own hands on the first play, breaking free on a jet sweep where he was grabbed at the line of scrimmage by three Festus defenders. After barely keeping his feet, Strong got loose and broke a few more tackles on his way to the end zone for an 80-yard score.
“He made a lot of really nice plays with the ball,” Head Coach Clint Anderson said. “He has a way of doing that. When he gets that motor running, he’s tough to bring down. He gets it in his head that he’s taking it to the house or he’s going to get that first down and he just has that kind of determination. That’s great to have on our sideline. He’s an inspiration for a lot of these kids and he’s a great leader with the young guys too. He’s always coaching them and bringing them up and pumping them up.”
Strong intercepted a pass to end the next Festus drive and Pacific was driving down the field with a chance to tie when wide receiver Parker Kuelker was drug down out of bounds in the final minute of the half. Play stopped as Kuelker had to be medically transported from the field. It was later announced that he was able to regain all of his feeling.
Quarterback Jobe Courtney was able to complete another pair of passes, but time expired in the half just as Pacific reached the red zone.
Despite the injury, Anderson said the team remained energetic at the break and optimistic of being able to catch the Tigers.
That’s just what they did. Pacific came out of the locker room and stuffed the Tigers’ offense, forcing both of Festus’ third quarter drives to end in a punt.
Meanwhile, Pacific made good on its first possession, twice converting on fourth downs before Courtney finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
When the Indians got the ball back, it was more of the same as the drive carried over into the fourth quarter. Courtney completed a 36-yard pass to Strong, who drug a pair of Festus’ defenders for at least five yards to get into the red zone. Strong then ran it in from 18 yards to give Pacific its only lead of the game.
Strong finished the game with six catches for 102 yards, adding 138 rushing yards and two scores on 10 carries. Defensively, he recorded six tackles and two assists along with forcing both of Festus’ two turnovers.
Pacific held the lead for less than 90 seconds before Uding evened the score with his second rushing score of the game, breaking a handful of tackles on the 32-yard play.
The Indians’ ensuing drive stalled in the red zone and Trey Boyer was sent on to attempt a 30-yard field goal that went wide left.
Pacific was able to stop Festus one more time and get the ball back with a little more than two minutes to play. However, a couple of plays into the drive, Courtney’s pass to Nathan Midkiff was tipped and intercepted by Hyde.
Coale then completed a pitch to Uding that went for 40 yards and Uding punched in his third score on the next play, giving Festus the lead back with 55 seconds remaining.
“Late in the game, you could tell we were wearing out,” Anderson said. “We weren’t making tackles that we were making earlier in the game. (Uding) is a great runner for them and later in the game when we were wearing out, he just kind of took it over.”
Pacific then failed to recover the kickoff and Festus recovered it back in the red zone where Uding tacked on the final score. Uding totalled 192 yards rushing.
That sealed the win as Pacific was able to pass the ball back up to midfield as time ran out.
Courtney completed 23-35 passing in the contest for 284 yards. He carried 16 times for 36 yards.
Devon Johnson and Midkiff had six receptions each. Johnson picked up 94 yards and Midkiff 45.
Colby Hootman had two catches for 32 yards.
Kuelker caught a pair for 10 yards.
Grant Hall caught one for one yard.
On defense, Meadows recorded four tackles. Hootman, Eddie Meyer, Seth Denbow and Ian Scott each tackled three.
Pacific returns to Four Rivers Conference play next week, hosting Hermann in the Indians’ homecoming game.
The Bearcats (3-4, 0-4) have lost three straight by a combined score of 123-18 and have allowed at least 250 rushing yards in each of those contests against St. Clair, Owensville and Sullivan.
A big factor will be how healthy the Indians are after sustaining numerous injuries leading up to and during the Festus game. Already without senior wide receiver and defensive back Ben Davis, two more starters left the game with injuries.
“The injury bug has bit us hard,” Anderson said. “We’ve got senior Colby Hootman and junior Max Meadows — they’re really dinged up. For them to play through what they played through tonight was pretty courages of them. Nathan Door went out tonight. I’m not sure exactly what his issue is, and then Parker Kuelker, the sophomore. ...We went from senior heavy on both sides of the ball to being in a position where we have to play some sophomores.”
A win for Pacific would be crucial to preserving a chance at the conference championship. The Indians (3-1) are locked in a tie with Owensville and St. James, who all look to keep pace with St. Clair (4-1), which plays outside the conference this week. The title looks as though it won’t be decided until the final week of the regular season when Owensville hosts St. Clair and Pacific goes to St. James.
Pacific – 0+7+7+7=21
Festus – 7+7+0+21=35
FST – Logan Uding 2 run (Chase Cole kick), 1:32
FST – RaShaun Hyde 28 pass from Austin Coale (Cole kick), 4:33
PAC – Matt Strong 80 run (Trey Boyer kick), 4:15
PAC – Jobe Courtney 1 run (Boyer kick), 3:28
PAC – Strong 18 run (Boyer kick), 10:44
FST – Uding 32 run (Cole kick), 9:15
FST – Uding 3 run (Cole kick), 0:55
FST – Uding 8 run (Cole kick), 0:25