ARABIANS BLINDSIDED IN WEEK THREE
By Sam Sherman
A gorgeous day at Neal Field in New Castle, Indiana, was the perfect setting for a great high school football game. The speakers played classic Eminem tracks and New Castle’s turf field was painted perfectly with the Trojan logo. As the stands on each side filled up, there was a certain sense in the air. The sense that this game between the (1-1) Pendleton Heights Arabians and (1-1) New Castle Trojans, both Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals, would be a classic. That’s exactly what it was.
The game began with the New Castle Trojans receiving the ball first. After an excellent kick by Pendleton’s Thomas Quiroga, the Trojans started the drive from their own 1 yard line. With an even mix of run and pass plays, the Trojans managed to get the ball out to their own 41, but were forced to punt. Then came the Pendleton offense, sophomore quarterback Christian Conkling was the starter for the second week in a row. The Arabians also started the game from inside their own 10 yard line, but chose to focus more on the ground game for their drive. After a brutal sack on Conkling, the Arabians were also forced to punt. The rest of the quarter remained slow and it ended with a tied 0-0 on the scoreboard.
The second quarter began with a very slow pace and a strong defensive presence for both teams. With both New Castle and Pendleton trading punts, eventually the Pendleton offense was ready to speed up and take control. The Arabian offense leaned more on Conkling and the passing game for the next offensive set. A long pass down the middle of the field to receiver Anakin Allison took the Arabian offense from midfield to the 8 yard line. The next pass was an instant throw to Jordan Kirkpatrick, who was stopped right at the goal line. A delay of game on Pendleton then pushed the line of scrimmage back to the 6 yard line, but this was no issue for Conkling as he sent a bullet right into the arms of sophomore Tristen Spinks for a 6-yard touchdown to put the Arabians up 7-0. The rest of the half resumed with the slow pace. The only head-turner was an interception thrown by Conkling nearing the end of the half. At halftime, the Arabians led the Trojans 7-0. A combination of good defense for both squads led to the low scoring game.
To begin the third quarter, Pendleton’s Corbin Cox returned the opening kickoff to the Pendleton 48 yard line. On a 4th down play, Conkling threw another long pass, this time to Tristen Spinks, which ended on the 2 yard line. The next play was a pass to Jordan Kirkpatrick, who made a huge leaping grab over defenders in the back of the end zone to make it a 14-0 lead for Pendleton. The rest of the quarter had more action, like fumble scares and long gains, but neither team could finish off drives with scores. The Arabians led 14-0 at the end of the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the pacing of the game was still relatively slow. The Pendleton defense had not allowed New Castle to pick up a first down since their very first drive of the game. However, great defensive responses by New Castle had stopped Pendleton from capitalizing on the majority of their defensive stances. After another New Castle punt, Pendleton had the ball and was ready to chew as much clock as they could. On a 3rd down and 6, Pendleton decided to throw to keep the drive going. This quickly proved to be a mistake as New Castle intercepted Conkling for the second time in the game, and this time ran it back to the house for a pick-6. Pendleton’s lead had been cut down to 7. On the next Pendleton set, the Arabians were still trying to chew clock. Eventually, the Arabians had to punt and give the ball back to a now hyped up New Castle offense. For the first 3 and a half quarters, the Pendleton student section had been lively and loud, and the New Castle section dead silent. Now, however, the tables were completely turned. The drive for New Castle began slowly, but on a 3rd down play from New Castle’s 29 yard line, a pass down the right side of the field ended on Pendleton’s 18. The second play from the 15 yard line ended in a rushing touchdown for New Castle. The next play would ultimately decide the game as New Castle chose to attempt a 2-point conversion. The ball was snapped and as the New Castle running back rolled to the right, he broke a tackle and walked into the end zone. The New Castle Trojans, who trailed 14-0 less than 8 minutes ago, now led 15-14. The New Castle stands were ecstatic. The rest of the game was completely one-sided in New Castle’s favor. Incomplete passes and a near interception mixed with runs that went nowhere for Pendleton sealed the comeback win for the New Castle Trojans.
As the Pendleton Heights Arabians look back on this game, there are definitely several positives to take away. A great defensive showing by the Pendleton zone coverage and improved tackling, combined with an excellent run game by Payton Huth and generally impressive game by Christian Conkling. However, the blown game must be addressed. In the end, New Castle’s defense won this game. A pick-6 and clutch stops on Pendleton’s final drive are great examples of how a defense can, almost single handedly, win a game. The Arabians fall in their first game in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, and now sit with a (1-2) record on the season. The Arabians travel to another conference rival Greenfield Central next week, and will surely be looking to show that they can step up on the road.