ALBION, Mich. – The Eureka football team's hopes of heading into Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference play with a 3-0 record ended on Saturday.
Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) racked up a career-high 410 yards and four touchdowns, and James Douglas III (Orlando, Fla./Deltona) hauled in nine receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns, but EC (2-1) couldn't quite keep up with Albion (3-0), dropping a 56-41 road shootout at Sprinkle-Sprandel Stadium.
Trailing 28-21 at halftime, EC put itself in position to get the win in its second-ever Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Challenge Series game with a strong start to the second half.
After getting a defensive stop, Barth found Douglas for an 80-yard, game-tying catch-and-run for a touchdown.
A fumbled snap on punt allowed EC to start the next drive in the red zone, and the white jerseys capitalized with a six-yard touchdown toss by Barth to fullback Wesley Burris (Monmouth, Ill./Monmouth-Roseville).
That gave the Red Devils their first lead since after the first drive of the game.
However, Albion answered in time, evening the score with a nine-play 59-yard scoring drive that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Thomas to his brother, Justin Thomas with 6:05 left in the third frame.
An EC three-and-out, put the ball back in the Britons' hands, and once again, the Thomas brothers connected to return the lead to the home team on a 42-yard touchdown reception with 1:45 left in the quarter.
Kyle Thomas finished with 457 all-purpose yards, throwing for 313 yards and five touchdowns on 22-for-34 passing and running for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 13 attempts. Justin Thomas caught nine receptions, scored four times and finished with 171 receiving yards for the Britons.
Early in the fourth quarter, EC kicker Tanner Kuhne (Princeton, Ill./Princeton) converted his first of two field goals – a 25-yarder that brought EC back within four points at 42-38.
Six plays later, an 11-yard touchdown catch by Justin Thomas stretched the lead to 11 points.
EC made it to the red zone on its next drive, but ended up settling for another Kuhne field goal, which made it 49-41 with 6:36 left in the game.
Kyle Thomas thwarted EC's plans of further response with a couple of nifty jukes and broken tackles en route to a 44-yard touchdown dash with less than six minutes remaining. And, after a lightning delay, Albion held off the Red Devils for good.
The Britons put up 14 points in each quarter and twice held a two-touchdown lead in the first half.
Twice in the second quarter, Eureka trimmed the deficit to seven with 11-yard touchdown passes from Barth to Douglas. The first made it 21-14 with 5:52 left in the half. The second made it 28-21 with just 12 seconds until the break.
Barth's 410-yard game is only the eighth time an EC quarterback has reached the 400-yard mark. The senior did it while connecting with seven Red Devils. Caleb Fauver (Catlin, Ill./Salt Fork) followed Douglas with four receptions for 73 yards and Pierce Bradford (Decatur, Ill./Argenta-Oreana) tallied three for 50.
Barth also led the Red Devils in rushing with 49 yards on nine attempts, including a 23-yard TD dash that put EC on the board on their first drive.
On the other side of the ball, Lane Short (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) recorded his first career interception on the Eureka 18 in the second quarter, just two plays after a 67-yard kick return by Albion's Isaiah Gibson put the Briton deep in EC territory.
The Red Devils now have a bye week to regroup and prepare for their next game on the road against Aurora on Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.