Special teams, defense lift Eureka to third-straight UMAC victory

Special teams, defense lift Eureka to third-straight UMAC victory

MORRIS, Minn. – The Eureka Red Devils' defense intercepted six passes, and sophomore linebacker Chris Friend (Washington, Ill./Washington [St. Xavier]) blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, lifting Eureka to a gritty 10-7 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Minnesota-Morris, Saturday afternoon at Big Cat Stadium in Morris, Minn. The victory captures Eureka's third-straight conference triumph.

Sophomore quarterback Colton Johnson (Lewistown, Ill./Lewistown [Olivet Nazarene]) finished the day 9-for-24 for 104 yards, chipping in 15 yards rushing.

Freshman running back LeAnthony Reasnover (Momence, Ill./Momence) carried the ball 18 times for 55 yards, while classmate Paul Rhodes (Pana, Ill./Pana) carried the ball a season-high 15 times for 39 yards.

Sophomore wide receiver Austin Zirkle (Gilman, Ill./Iroquois West), coming off a three-touchdown effort last week, led EC receivers with three grabs for 43 yards.

Eureka's defense allowed just four first downs and 95 yards of total offense, including only 34 yards through the air, holding Cougars' quarterback Devin Griffin to 8-for-22 throwing. Senior linebacker Marcus Washington (Peoria, Ill./Morton) and junior cornerback Ricky Martinez (Yorda Linda, Calif./JSerra) each had a pair of interceptions, while senior safety Jordan Blair (Lanark, Ill./Eastland [Rockford]) and sophomore cornerback Ross Royal (Gibson City, Ill./Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) also collected interceptions.

Friend and classmate Ray Vogel (Bartonville, Ill./Limestone) paced Eureka defensively with seven stops each, Vogel adding 2.5 tackles for a loss. Friend also recovered a fumble on a fumbled punt return the Cougar's return man.

The seven turnovers are most by a Eureka team since 2011 when EC forced five against Westminster.

Junior kicker Tyler Winders (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) connected on his 15th career field goal from 27-yards out, providing the game-winning points for the visitors.

Eureka will close out their 2015 season next Saturday back in the state of Minnesota. The Red Devils will travel to St. Paul for a 12 p.m. kickoff against UMAC opponent Northwestern (Minn.).