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Hornets escape Noxon with 32-27 win


September 13, 2018

John Hamilton

RED DEVIL FRESHMAN Cade VanVleet scored two second half touchdowns in Friday's exciting Western C 6-Man game in Noxon. Devils host Hot Springs Savage Heat Friday.

NOXON – It was a great game to win for White Sulphur Springs but a very tough one to lose for the Noxon Red Devils.

The visiting Hornets from White Sulphur Springs scored an improbable win over the Devils at Jenny Lampshire Memorial Field in Noxon Friday night, scoring nine points in the last three minutes of play to pull out a 32-27 victory and stay in control of the Western C 6-Man playoff race.

Now 1-1 in Western C action, Bart Haflich and his Devils face another crucial game this week when they host Hot Springs, which is also 1-1 in conference play and 2-1 overall. The winner of this game will be in the driver's seat for one of the Western C's four 6-Man playoff spots while the loser will have a tough row to hoe just getting into the post season.

"We are focused on this game, we are excited for the opportunity," Haflich said. "Hot Springs is a well-coached team with a lot of tradition, we expect the same kind of game we had with White Sulphur last week."

The game with White Sulphur was one for the ages, an instant classic, quite possibly one of the best high school football games ever played in Noxon.

The Hornets scored first Friday night on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Shawn Ogle to Isaac Collins with just over seven minutes left in the first quarter. After the conversion kick was no good, White Sulphur led 6-0.

After the Noxon defense repelled the Hornets on another scoring chance a few minutes later, the Devils got on the board when Levi Brubaker sprinted 53 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and, after Jeriko Smith passed to Rylan Weltz for the one-point conversion, the Devils led 7-6 with 1:31 left in the first quarter.

White Sulphur scored right before the end of the first quarter to take a 12-7 lead into the second period, and Will Collins scored on a 6-yard run midway through that quarter to extend the Hornets' lead to 18-7.

The Devils caught a break right before halftime when White Sulphur

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chanced throwing a risky pass downfield and Brubaker intercepted the ball and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the half. Brubaker then connected on the 2-point conversion kick to make the score 18-15 at the half, giving Noxon new life.

The fact that the Devils did not give up after falling behind was gratifying to Haflich. "This team showed a lot of maturity there in the first half," he said. "In the past, we may have been finished after falling behind like that but these kids refused to give up and eventually battled their way back. I really liked how we responded to the adversity Friday."

Fired up by Brubaker's big play to end the first half, the Devils seemed to take complete control of the game in the third period. With 1:47 left in the quarter, freshman fullback Cade VanVleet busted through the middle of White Sulphur's defense for a 15-yard touchdown run to put Noxon up 21-18.

The Devils then held White Sulphur on downs when Edison VanVleet tackled the Hornet ball carrier short of the sticks on a fourth and six play and three plays later Cade VanVleet steamed in for another TD from nine yards out to make the score 27-18 with 8:07 left in the game.

Undaunted, the Hornets answered Noxon's scoring drive with one of their own, moving 73 yards in seven plays, with Will Collins going the final two yards for the touchdown with 2:46 left. The 2-point conversion kick was good to make the score 27-26 Noxon.

The Devils had a chance to gain a fresh set downs and probably run out the clock but just missed connecting on a third down pass play that would have been good for first down yardage, and were forced to punt with 1:42 left. White Sulphur partially blocked Brubaker's punt and got the ball back on their own 34-yard line with 1:37 showing on the clock.

On first down from there, Ogle passed to Will Collins for a 31-yard gain to give the Hornets a first down at Noxon's 16-yard line. After Isaac Collins ran for a gain of four yards on first down, the Hornets ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown on a broken play.

Ogle fumbled the snap on that play and Will Collins grabbed the rolling ball off the turf, looked downfield and found Jack Galt streaking across the middle with a 16-yard scoring pass to put White Sulphur up 32-27 with only 46.5 seconds left. The 2-point conversion kick attempt was no good.

After the ensuing kickoff, Will Collins then sealed the deal for the Hornets by intercepting a Noxon pass with 5.9 seconds left.

John Hamilton

LEVI BRUBAKER leaves another would-be tackler behind against White Sulphur Springs. Brubaker gained 150 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in the game.

"That was a heart-breaker for us, losing like that is kind of a tough pill to swallow," Haflich said. "But White Sulphur is a quality team – they have five starters back from a State C semifinalist team – so there was no shame in losing to them. It's just a game that we felt like we should have won."

White Sulphur coach Travis Novark was complimentary towards the Devils. "Noxon is a tough, well-coached team, we knew going in that this was going to be a very difficult game," Novark said. "But I have to take my hat off to our guys, too. This team doesn't quit, we showed a lot of character in coming back like we did."

The Hornets had scored a similarly difficult 20-18 win over Hot Springs the week before in White Sulphur Springs, helping to set up this weekend's key game between Sanders County rivals in Noxon.

"This game (with Hot Springs) definitely has playoff implications," Haflich said. "The team that wins it will probably still have a good shot of hosting a first round game, and that's the way we are approaching it."


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