By Brian McKim
The Falls City Tigers took on the Fairbury Jeffs Friday night from Jug Brown Stadium. Hopes of good weather were dashed before kickoff as the rain began and hung around off and on for most of the game. It didn’t deter either team or the crowd from giving it their all. The Tigers were looking to get back into the win column, while the Jeffs were looking to stay undefeated. According to Coach Fritz the players had a good week of practice after the Ashland loss.
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field against the Fairbury defense all the way to the 19 yard line. The drive stalled however, and on fourth down and ten from the 19-yard line quarterback Rudy Vrtiska was picked off at the one-yard line with 8:17 to go in the first quarter. After the pick, Fairbury moved the ball 46 yards down field before Vrtiska would snare a fumble out of mid air and return it to the 38 yard line of the Jeffs with 5:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
With the rain coming down hard, the Tigers began an 11 play drive that would finish with a six-yard run up the middle by Rudy Vrtiska for the games first score. The PAT was good by Dalton Kennel and with 11:23 to go in the second quarter Falls City led by a score of 7-0. After the kickoff, Fairbury put together a nice drive that would end on the Tigers 28-yard line as the defense held strong and the Jeffs turned the ball over on downs.
On the Tigers next drive the offense would sputter and they would be forced to punt for the first time of the night after going three and out. After a punt and a late hit penalty against the Tigers, Fairbury had the ball, first and ten from the Tiger 28 yard line. On the very next play, a block in the back penalty against Fairbury would move them back to the 43-yard line. Four plays, all passes, and 43 yards later quarterback Adam Wasserman kept the ball for a three-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good and with 4:44 to go in the first half the game was tied 7-7.
Falls City wasted little time as they moved the ball 64 yards on 10 plays. On fourth and six from the 24 yard line Zane Heckenlively carried the ball to the 10-yard line with 27 seconds to go in the first half. After a holding penalty, Vrtiska hit Heckenlively on the left side of the field, who fumbled the ball at the goal line but pounced back on it for the touchdown with four seconds to go in the first half. The extra point kick was good and at the half the Tigers led 14-7.
Fairbury would receive the ball to start the second half but the Tigers defense was ready to play out of the locker room. After just eight yards on three plays the Tigers would force the Jeffs to punt the ball away. Falls City would get the ball at their own 35-yard line. On just the third play of the drive Austin Babb would carry the ball on a counter for a nice gain but would fumble the ball and the Jeffs would recover. The Tiger defense again stepped up and forced a Fairbury punt after giving up minus four yards on three plays. Once again the offense couldn’t get going and after five plays the Tigers were forced to punt the ball and the Jeffs would take over at their own 15 yard line. Then on a fourth and two from the 50-yard line Aaron Kurpgeweit would break up the pass and F.C. would get the ball back. The score would remain 14-7 entering the fourth quarter.
After turning the ball over on downs, Fairbury would take the ball over on their own 27-yard line with 9:17 left in the ball game. The Jeffs would move the ball against the Tiger defense this time and with 6:19 to go in the game running back Logan Slater would carry the ball to the right for a four yard touchdown run. Fairbury gambled and went for a two-point conversion rather than playing for a tie. QB Wasserman, under pressure, rolled right and threw and incomplete pass and Falls City maintained a 14-13 lead.
With wet conditions Falls City again fumbled the ball away on their next possession. Fairbury took over on their own 35-yard line with 3:38 to go. However four plays later the Jeffs would also put the ball on the turf and the Tigers would fall on top of it. The Tigers could not capitalize and were forced to punt the ball away with 43 seconds remaining in the game. Fairbury had the ball at their own 43 yard line.
After an incomplete pass on first down, F.C. was called for a questionable pass interference penalty. That moved the ball to the Tiger 41-yard line with 19 seconds to go. The Jeffs quarterback scrambled to the 25-yard line before being pushed out of bounds with four seconds remaining. On the final play of the game Kurpgeweit and Noah Milam broke up the pass and the Tigers held on for the 14-13 win.
When asked about the penalty problem Fritz responded, “Penalties were real drive killers for us this week, just when we started rolling we would do something at the worst time to stall out the drive.”
Fritz gave credit to Ben Bauman on both the offensive and defensive line and Heckenlively, who once again led the ground attack with 21 carries for 130 yards. Vrtiska also had 74 yards on 17 carries. On the defensive side of the ball Kennel led the way with 11 total stops including a sack.
Falls City travels this week to take on Lincoln Christian. “They have a disciplined group who run fundamentally good schemes on offense and defense,” said Coach Fritz.