Eureka College senior quarterback Sam Durley (Roanoke/Roanoke-Benson H.S.) completed 16 passes to break the all-time Eureka record, while the Eureka defense got a critical stop in the closing moments of the game, sending the Red Devils to a 17-14 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Crown, Saturday afternoon at Storm Field in St. Bonifacius, Minn.
Trailing 17-14 with only 2:09 remaining and 76 yards to cover, Crown (1-2, 1-1 UMAC) ran a total of 10 plays to move into field goal territory in the final minute of the contest. The hosts picked up four first downs on the drive, and a 25-yard gain on a designed hook-and-lateral play moved the Storm all the way down to Eureka’s 11-yard line in the final seconds. Forced to try for a field goal and the tie with less than 10 seconds remaining, Crown kicker Kurt Fickle missed wide to left from 27 yards away, allowing the Red Devils to kneel out the clock and earn their first league victory of the season.
After the two squads traded possessions on four punts, a turnover on downs and an interception by Eureka (2-1, 1-1 UMAC) senior strong safety Murad Abbed (Danville/Bismarck-Henning H.S.) early in the first quarter, the Red Devils struck first for a 7-0 lead. Eureka covered 80 yards on the drive, 59 of which came through the air, before Durley found senior receiver Matt Dawson (Goodfield/Eureka H.S.) with a 5-yard touchdown throw with 2:32 left in the opening quarter. Senior kicker Travis Huber (Morton/Morton H.S.) successfully converted the extra point, capping the 10-play series that chewed 4:04 off the clock.
The Red Devils were poised to stretch their lead to two possessions midway through the second quarter, but a 43-yard drive ended inside Crown’s 5-yard line and produced zero points after a missed field goal left the visitors in front, 7-0. The Storm also experienced a missed opportunity in the second quarter, failing to convert on fourth down inside Eureka’s 30-yard line with 1:00 left before halftime. The visitors carried the 7-0 cushion into intermission.
Eureka successfully stretched its lead to two possessions on its second series of the second half. Facing third down, Durley connected with Dawson for the second time of the afternoon, a 44-yard strike with 7:15 left in the third quarter for a 14-0 advantage. Three punts later, EC was ready to push the lead to three scores in the closing moments of the third quarter, but Durley was intercepted inside the red zone by Sebastian Alvar, who returned the pick 84 yards to Eureka’s 5-yard line.
After three unsuccessful run plays forced 4th-and-goal, Crown’s Amos Schimdt was able to punch in a 1-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter, cutting the Red Devils’ lead in half, 14-7.
Page 2 of 3 - Midway through the fourth quarter, Eureka extended the advantage back to two possessions. An 8-play drive stalled inside Crown’s 10-yard line, forcing the Red Devils to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Huber and 17-7 lead with 5:19 left in the game.
Crown answered promptly, putting together its longest scoring drive of the afternoon.
The 60-yard scoring drive, aided by a 15-yard penalty against the Red Devils on the first play of the series, took only five plays and 117 seconds off the clock before backup quarterback Josh Ganados hit Brandon Welch for a 12-yard touchdown with 3:22 remaining. Fickle converting the extra point, making the score 17-14 in favor of the Red Devils.
Eureka was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, setting up Crown’s final drive of the day that ended with the missed field goal from Fickle that would have tied the game.
The Eureka defense was solid throughout Saturday’s victory, limiting the Storm to just 229 yards of total offense and forcing a pair of turnovers. As a unit, the Red Devils compiled 5.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Drew Duffy (Flanagan/Flanagan-Cornell H.S.) made a team-high 10 tackles. On the defensive line, junior Stew McGinnis (East Peoria/East Peoria H.S./Millikin) and sophomore Robert Ford (Mackinaw/Dee-Mack H.S./Illinois College) led the squad with 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks apiece.
The Eureka secondary held Crown to 175 yards through the air. Senior free safety Ethan Lord (Dupo/Dupo H.S./Iowa Wesleyan) and Abbed each had five stops, while junior cornerback Wes Robinson (Chicago/Normal Community H.S.) broke up three passes.
Durley went 16-for-37 for 239 yards. His third completion of the day, a 31-yard strike to senior Jordan Kindred (Chrisman/Chrisman H.S.) in the first quarter, broke the all-time Eureka record of 422 held by Nick Lindsey (2006-09). Durley now has 436 completions for his career. Durley, who set a single-game NCAA record with 736 passing yards two weeks ago at Knox, also owns the all-time Eureka records in passing attempts (878), passing yards (6,562) and passing touchdowns (50).
Dawson turned in one of the best performances of his four-year career, setting new personal-bests with eight catches and 147 yards. His two touchdowns tied a career-high set two weeks ago at Knox, and his 44-yard touchdown was the longest reception of his career.
Dawson’s 319 receiving yards in 2012 have increased his career total to 699. He needs 205 more receiving yards to reach Eureka’s all-time top-10 list.
Saturday’s win marked the 12th career victory for Eureka head coach Kurt Barth, moving the EC Hall of Famer into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time program list for coaching victories. Barth needs two more wins to tie Ray Urban (1969-73) for sixth place.
Page 3 of 3 - Barth had previously been tied for seventh place on the list with George Pritchard (1916-20) and Leo “Doc” Traister (1956-66). Legendary Eureka administrator Ralph McKinzie is the all-time leader with 36 victories.
On the ground, sophomore Patrick Simms (Tremont/Tremont H.S.) led the Red Devils with 18 carries for 82 yards, both totals being career-highs. Freshman Zach McCoy (Champaign/Centennial H.S.) finished the day with 17 rushes for 62 yards.
Schmidt was bottled up for most of the afternoon, but ultimately led a group of five Crown rushers with 39 yards on 18 touches. Ganados completed eight passes for 101 yards after replacing starter Wes Safford. Terrell Thomas hauled in six passes for 63 yards.
Following a three consecutive games on the road to begin the season, the Red Devils will play their first game of the season at McKinzie Field next Saturday. Eureka will welcome Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member Simpson for a 1 p.m. kickoff, the final non-conference game of the 2012 season. The Red Devils and Storm will be meeting in football for the first time ever.
NOTES: Eureka is now 2-2 all-time against Crown … Saturday’s win was Eureka’s first-ever victory on Crown’s home field … The decision marked Eureka’s first-ever victory on Sept. 15, snapping a string of six consecutive losses on the date … The Red Devils are now 4-6 all-time in the state of Minnesota … The Red Devils are 2-1 for the third time in the last four seasons under head coach Kurt Barth … The 2-1 road trip marks Eureka’s best three-game stretch away from home since 1996 … Crown finished the game 2-for-14 on third down conversions and failed to score in the red zone twice … Each squad punted eight times.