The year 1994 was a big news year. President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president, and O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, Nicole, and Ronald Goldman. The big movies of the year were Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction, and Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots were top on the music charts.
In DeKalb County, Tigers Head Coach Steve Trapp was a junior in high school, members of the 2013 Tigers Football team had not been born yet, and it was the last year that DeKalb County beat Livingston Academy in a football game.
The Wildcats always seemed to have DeKalb County’s number. No matter how good the Tigers played, Livingston always seemed to get into the Tigers’ heads, but that all changed last Friday night with a 35-28 win that Tigers’ fans wanted so badly.
There was something in the air at last Friday’s game. The home crowd packed John L. Van Hoosier Stadium, and it was standing room only as fans lined the field’s fence from one end zone to another. There was an anticipation amongst the fans that maybe this was the year.
If the game had been measured by the first quarter, it would have been called a low-scoring defensive battle. Livingston was forced to punt on their first possession, then DeKalb went three and out. The Tigers again forced the Wildcats to punt on their next possession, and the Tigers looked as if they might put points on the board, but a fumble gave the ball up at Livingston’s 32-yard line. Again it was up to the defense, and the Tigers held the Wildcats to another three and out.
The first points of the game would not come until the second quarter when both offenses came to life. Livingston would take possession of the ball on their own 32, and mount a seven-play drive culminating in a touchdown run by Wildcat’s Logan Watson. With the PAT good, Livingston took the lead with 8:20 left in the first half, 7-0.
Undaunted by the score, the Tigers would take the ball on their own 14, and two plays later Quarterback Steven Jennings would connect with Aaron Patterson for a 86-yard touchdown. Matthew Poss’ extra point was good, tying the game, 7-7.
The Wildcats would come right back however, starting a drive back on their own 35. It looked as if Livingston might fall to a three-and-out with a sack by Rickey Spare putting the Wildcats down with a third and eleven, but a catch by Livingston’s Wade Eldridge gave them first and ten on the 45. Two plays later, Wildcats’ QB Kaleb Qualls connected with Eldridge for a catch in the end zone. The successful extra point reestablished Livingston’s lead, 14-7.
Just as the score would put angst in the hearts of Tigers’ fans, DeKalb would fight back, and the Tigers’ next drive only showed their resolve. Taking the ball on their own 35, Jennings would take to the air and drive down to the Wildcat’s five-yard line. There, Jennings tossed it to A.J. Mooneyham for a touchdown with 1:26 in the half. Poss’ extra point was just outside, giving Livingston the one-point lead at the end of the half, 14-13.
The drives of the second half would end in disappointment for both teams, with DeKalb going three-and-out, and the Wildcats drive stalling after five plays. DeKalb’s next drive would stall at midfield, and the punt return by the Wildcats’ Kaleb Qualls would take them to DeKalb’s two-yard line. The next play, Livingston’s James Owens was in for six. With the extra point good, the Wildcats took an eight-point lead, 21-13 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
DeKalb’s next possession looked dire for Tiger fans with the team going three-and-out, but the defense stepped up again forcing a three-and-out from the Wildcats as well.
The Tigers’ offense would again come to life on their next drive, taking the ball on their own 35. From there, facing a third and 13, Jennings passed to Dustin Warner who took it to the ten. Inside the red zone, Livingston was given a big dose of Luke Boss and facing a fourth and goal from the one-foot line Boss powered his way in for a touchdown with 7:50 left in the game. A quarterback keeper in for two tied the score, 21-21.
Fired up by the offense, the Tigers’ defense took to the field and forced a three-and-out by the Wildcats. The punt gave the Tigers the ball midfield and there perhaps the play-of-the-game was made. After an illegal substitution gave DeKalb a first and 15 at Livingston’s 48-yard line, Jennings pitched a lateral back to wide receiver Divonta Milan, who rolled right and threw a pass to Jonathon Munoz. Munoz would take it down to the Wildcats’ three-yard line before being brought down and injured on the play. Coach Steve Trapp would later tell the Review that the play was only added to the playbook a few days before the game. The next play, Milan was in for the touchdown. With a successful PAT, the Tigers took the first lead of the game, 28-21 with 5:19 left to play.
Livingston was forced to punt on their next possession and DeKalb would make them pay again. With a second and seven from their own 41, Milan would run the ball 59 yards in for six with 2:34 left in the game. The point after gave the Tigers a two-score lead, but the Wildcats would not lay down.
A touchback gave the ball to Livingston on their own 20, and two plays later a pass to Elridge would bring the Wildcats closer. The extra point made it a one-score game, 35-28 with 2:12 left in the game.
The next play sent shock through the Tigers’ stands. A successful on-side kick gave the ball back to the Wildcats at DeKalb’s 47-yard line. It was time for the Tigers’ D to stand up and they did just that. With a last gasp drive, the Wildcats were able to push all the way down to the Tigers’ six-yard line. From there the drive stalled. An incomplete pass, followed by a quarterback sack by Rickey Spare, pushed the Wildcats back to the 18. There, another incomplete pass forced a fourth and goal from the 18. The pass was up to Eldridge, but Aaron Patterson got there first and broke it up. The Tigers took over on downs, running the clock out and taking the victory.
"Our guys have got a lot of fight in them," Coach Trapp told the Review. "There was a lot of ugly stuff out there again. I was a junior in high school the last time we beat this team, but we really didn’t talk about that all week. We told these guys, ‘the past is in the past, and that’s not what wins or loses football games.’"
Coach Trapp continued, "They understood it was a big football game. A district game and them beating us two times last year, but these guys have fought hard for us for three weeks, and we’re going to do a lot of special things as we continue to grow. I’m just proud as heck out of them. They scared me half to death, but I’m really proud of our guys the way that they battled and hung in there."
When asked about the defensive stand at the final seconds of the game, Coach Trapp said, "We were wanting to run some clock right there, and Divonta got a big run, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We had them on the ropes, and they hit a big pass play on us. We’ve got to fix a few things in that category, but our guys kept playing. We talk about it all the time, the next play until the horn blows, that’s when we’ll figure out if we’re winners or losers. They played every single snap, and fortunately we came out victorious."
The Tigers’ next game will be this Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Van Hoosier Stadium against White County.