It wasn’t pretty, but Fox High School Footbal Coach Brent Tinker knew it wasn’t going to be.
Heavy rain on Thursday night created a muddy field at but the Warriors were able to prevail for a sloppy 19-14 victory over Seckman in the MSHSAA Class 5 District 1 tournament, which means Fox advances to play at Rockwood Summit on Wednesday.
“The conditions were what they were,” Tinker said after the game. “Every high school kid wants one of these.”
Fox running back Greg Abeyta sure had fun playing in the mud. The junior galloped for 100 yards on 14 carries with a pair of touchdowns to lead the way for the Warriors.
“It was a lot of fun,” Abeyta said. “I love playing in the mud. It was nice and cold, but you don’t even think about it when you’re playing.”
Temperatures were in the 80s earlier in the day before cooling off in favor of strong wind and heavy rain.
“We put the ball on the ground a few times because of (the rain),” Seckman coach Jamie Critchlow said. “You eliminate that, and we’ve got more points on the board than they do at the end of the game. You can go over the course of any game and talk about what you should have done. Don’t turn the ball over and give yourself a chance to win.”
The Jaguars (2-8) lost two of their four fumbles, and Fox converted one of those turnovers into points. The Warriors (5-5) also fumbled four times, but lost just one.
There was a moment of silence before the game for Seckman freshman earlier this week. His number 46 was painted in blue at each end of the field, and the hash marks for the 46-yard lines were painted gold with blue outlines.
“They were going to come out and play hard,” Tinker said. “There was not a doubt about that, whatsoever. I know a lot of those guys. That’s a good group of kids over there. They’ve had a rough time.”
After recovering an onside kick to start the game, Seckman drove the ball 41 yards to the Fox 5-yard line. A mishandled snap on first-and-goal gave the ball back to the Warriors. Tyler Brewer took a direct snap and rumbled 35 yards on the next play to allow Fox to flip the field. After the drive stalled, the Fox defense forced a three-and-out.
The Warriors took advantage of their next possession. A 26-yard run by quarterback Tyler Thompson led to a 2-yard dive into the end zone from Abeyta. Thompson finished with a game-high 102 rushing yards on 18 rushes.
Another Seckman drive appeared to stall on the ensuing possession, but Andrew Krauss converted on fourth down with a long run into Fox territory. Krauss finished with 99 yards on 26 carries. The Jaguars fumbled on the next play to again give the ball back to the Warriors. Two plays later, it was Abeyta scoring from 53 yards out.
“They converted one of those turnovers into a touchdown and were able to catch us not awake on one of the punts,” Critchlow said. “They got a formation we didn’t adjust to and took advantage of it.
“They made a few more plays than we did and that’s all they needed.”
The Jaguars got on the board with 3:58 remaining in the half when Krauss scored on a 4-yard run. That was set up by a 32-yard pass from Devon McCoy to Cody Tolliver. McCoy completed three of his seven pass attempts. All three completions were to Tolliver, who finished with 46 receiving yards.
Brewer returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards into Seckman territory, but the Warriors were unable to score before halftime. Brewer credited his blockers on both his first carry and the long kick return.
“I wouldn’t have got all those yards if they weren’t blocking like that,” he said. “The blocking was there, so I saw a hole and hit it.”
The Fox senior added a 51-yard pass reception in the third quarter that led to the decisive score. The pass from quarterback Tyler Thompson was one of only two attempted by the Warriors and it came on a fake punt.
“We really wanted to show fake and then they didn’t cover,” Tinker said. “That made it a little easier. We knew we had to be opportunistic to win a game like this. A couple of the bounces went our way.”
One of those bounces came at the end of the reception. Brewer had the ball knocked free from him at the Seckman 13, but the Warriors were able to recover. Thompson took it in on a quarterback keeper from the 1 a few plays later.
“The rainy weather is never an excuse,” Brewer said. “Next week if we put the ball on the ground four times, you usually don’t win.”
Seckman answered the Thompson touchdown on its next possession as McCoy scored on his own QB keeper. A 30-yard run by Krauss helped set up the score.
The Warriors were trying to seal the victory with a long drive into Seckman territory, but Thompson was unable to handle a third-down snap at the goal line and the Jags recovered. After a couple of first downs, a fourth-down pass intended for Tolliver was knocked down by Brewer and the Warriors were able to milk out the final 1:52 for the win.
“We were lucky to get out of here with a victory because they played really hard,” Tinker said. “It was very nice to get a win for this group of seniors. We’re very happy.”
Next up is the Falcons, who beat Fox in convincing fashion – 49-14 in the second week of the season. Abeyta and the rest of the Warriors are looking forward to the postseason rematch.
“That was not a good game on our part,” Abeyta said of the Aug. 31 defeat. “We’re going to work hard on them all week and hopefully it turns out to be a ‘W.’”