MILWAUKEE, Wis. – It took a little extra time, but the Eureka football team earned its first Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference victory of 2019 in dramatic fashion on Saturday evening.
Three plays after an Adrian Walker (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway North) interception in overtime put Eureka in the driver's seat, Joe Hughes (Normal, Ill./University) rushed 3 yards for the game-winning touchdown, clinching a 26-20 win over Wisconsin Lutheran at Raabe Stadium.
With the win, Eureka improved to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in the NACC, snapping a two-game losing skid. It was the Red Devils' second recorded overtime win in program history and first since EC nipped Rockford 27-21 in 2004.
Their running game played a significant role. For the first time this season, the Red Devils notched more rushing yards (211) than passing yards (146).
Sidelined for most of the fall due to injury, Hughes racked up a career-high 180 rushing yards on 38 carries and posted three touchdown runs for the Red Devils.
Quarterback Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) threw for 146 yards and one interception on 16-for-33 passing, wide receiver Blake Phillips (Catlin, Ill./Salt Fork) hauled in a team-leading and career-high six receptions for 53 yards and kicker Tanner Kuhne (Princeton, Ill./Princeton) converted a pair of crucial field goals.
To come out on top, the Red Devils had to overcome a slow start and a slew of mistakes in a messy contest that ended with seven turnovers between the two sides.
Though EC dominated the possession game (45:02 to 14:58 while running 95 plays to Wisconsin Lutheran's 42), the maroon and gold lost two fumbles, threw an interception and accumulated nine penalties for 83 yards. Wisconsin Lutheran lost two fumbles, had two interceptions and committed five penalties for 30 yards.
On both sides, plenty of errors were committed and plans went awry, which made for tight competition until the end.
Eureka trailed Wisconsin Lutheran 7-3 after the first half. Kuhne put the Red Devils on the board with a 25-yard field goal on the first drive of the game after Eureka failed to capitalize after reaching the 1.
With 46 seconds left in the half, the Warriors took their first lead on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Nick Yockey to Javion Morgan.
EC came out well in the third quarter, with Austin McCarty (Oakwood, Ill./Oakwood) quickly forcing a fumble that Daetayvian Woodson (Sherman, Ill./Williamsville) recovered and ran 35 yards to set up Hughes' first touchdown. However, the Red Devils' ensuring 2-point conversion attempt failed, giving EC only a two-point edge at 9-7.
Eureka's Trevon Moore soon picked off Yockey on the next drive, but the Red Devils turned the ball over on downs and weren't able to score again until Kuhne converted a 36-yard field goal with 5:33 left in the third.
Wisconsin Lutheran regained the lead on the next drive when Yockey found Brandon Livingston for a 65-yard catch-and-and for a touchdown. The Red Devils did, however, foil the Warriors' 2-point conversion attempt, so they only trailed by one at 13-12.
Both teams fumbled away their next two drives. After Yockey hit Gabe Luce on a 29-yard reception, EC safety Nehemiah Butler (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood) pried the ball loose and into the hands of Amari Smith (Hazel Crest, Ill./Hillcrest) on the Red Devils' 41.
The visitor's then manufactured a 13-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Hughes rushing in for a 2-yard score and Barth tossing it to fullback Wesley Burris on the 2-point conversion attempt. Hughes carried the ball for 10 of the 13 plays, including the last seven in a row.
With 7:39 left, the Warriors took over on their own 35 and drove it 65 yards in six plays to tie the game at 20-20 on a 26-yard reception from Yockey to Morgan with 4:22 left.
Eureka was unable to find the end zone again in regulation, but Walker's third-down interception on the EC 6 and Hughes' final score rendered that moot.
The Red Devils' defense allowed a season-low 246 yards of total offense, limited the home team to 11 first downs and conceded just 10 completions.
Linebackers Mason Diederich (Washington, Ill./Washington) and McCarty each had three tackles. Woodson broke up a team-high three passes, while Kwentin Brookins (Gary, Ind./Westmont), Alexander Brittain (Eureka, Ill./Eureka) and Matt Sutton (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) each had one.
With their first NACC win under their belt and a challenging three-game road swing behind them, the Red Devils (3-2, 1-1 NACC) will return to McKinize Field next Saturday for a homecoming showdown against Concordia Chicago (3-2, 1-1).