GARRETT — What a difference one play, or in this case, one flag, can make.
Garrett put together a 20-play drive that consumed almost nine minutes to make it a one-score game against rival DeKalb Friday night, and the Railroader defense forced the Barons into a three-and-out.
Instead of getting the ball back with the momentum and a chance to win, however, the Railroaders hit the DeKalb punter for a 15-yard roughing call that gave the ball back to the Barons.
DeKalb turned to what had worked all night, the deep pass, to get close, and then pounded it in to the end zone to complete a 35-22 victory.
“We had things right how we wanted,” said Garrett coach Chris DePew. “We scored on the long drive, forced them to punt, and we’re looking to get the ball back and do it again. About seven minutes to go, repeat that process, score with under a minute to go, win it. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s just a couple of mistakes we made, things you can’t do in big games. It’s not a single person’s fault, we just collectively didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter.”
The Barons (2-0) also regrouped on defense, stopping a pass from Levi Follett to Seth VanWagner on fourth-and-two at the Railroader 38 on the next series, and allowed nothing on the final Garrett possession.
“We did what we had to do,” said DeKalb coach Pete Kempf. “Good teams win close ones, they win ugly ones, they win big ones. And tonight wasn’t pretty, but Garrett is a much-improved team.
“They made the big plays the first half and we didn’t. We should have two more scores up there and they shouldn’t have one of those, but Garrett played well. They did some things we weren’t prepared for. It took us ‘til halftime to adjust, and those adjustments paid off and now we’re sitting here winners.”
Garrett also had to adjust when junior running back Kolin Cope went down with an ankle injury on the second Railroader play from scrimmage. Cope ran for 220 yards and two scores in last week’s win against Prairie Heights.
The Railroaders went with freshman Robert Koskie, who carried 13 times on the long drive and capped it off with a 3-yard run to make it 27-22 with 11:16 left.
“It’s tough when you feel you have a pretty good running back and you lose him on the second play. You go to Plan B and you end up running with a freshman, and Robert Koskie, I can’t imagine being in that arena in the ninth grade and having to produce, but he did a great job. Our offensive line’s been a strength.”
DeKalb’s Evan Eshbach threw for 204 yards, including scoring passes of 54 and 65 yards to Easton Rhodes. A 35-yarder to Kai Zacharias set up the clinching score — a 2-yard run by Landon Miller — and another apparent touchdown of 38 yards to Rhodes was lost on a holding call.
“Our running game was not clean,” said Kempf. “Landon (Miller) had another great night, Tanner (Jack) we couldn’t get loose again. We’ve just got to keep pounding the rock and we will.
“They’re going to keep putting eight or nine in the box. At one of these points, if they’re going to sit in man, we’re going to hit our shots. That’s the difference between last year and this year. You can man us up, but we’re going to be ready for it.”