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    FOOTBALL: Du Quoin clinches share of conference title by beating A-J

    Doug Daniels
    Friday, October 21, 2016

    As Anna-Jonesboro kicker Sheldon McGrath’s extra point sailed wide left with just nine seconds to play in Friday’s game at Van Metre Field, the Indians knew they could celebrate. For the second year in a row, Du Quoin gets at least a share of the Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division title, beating the Wildcats 14-13 on Senior Night.
    Both defenses played well, but the Indians were just a little bit better, holding A-J to just 197 yards of total offense. Du Quoin has now held their last three opponents to a combined 25 points, 12 of which were scored against the second unit.
    “We’re really happy with how the defense stepped up and played, that was a big week for them,” said DHS head football coach A.J. Hill. “That was probably their biggest challenge to date, just to slow that offense down a little bit and play assignment football. They really stepped up to the challenge and had a really nice game.”
    A defensive war from the opening kickoff, neither team made their way into the other’s red zone in the first quarter. The Wildcats were able to do it early in the second quarter, though, with some help from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Indians that set A-J up with a first-and-goal at the six. Trenton Turner took the next handoff in for the game’s first points and Anna-Jonesboro led 7-0.
    The Indians went three-and-out on their next possession, but Ashton Smith picked off a pass on a fourth-down fake punt on the Wildcats’ next drive. A block in the back on the return left the Indians with the ball on their own 32-yard line with 7:09 to play in the half.
    A solid drive ensued, as Du Quoin picked up three first downs before stalling in A-J territory at the 33. The Indians went for it on fourth-and-twelve, but an incomplete pass cut the drive short. The Wildcats didn’t get too creative after taking over with 2:30 to go, and the game went into halftime still 7-0.
    DHS received the second half kickoff and faced a third down and five to go from their own 42 when quarterback Caleb Vogel tossed one deep to Jordan Edwards who hauled in the pass for a first down at Anna’s 24-yard line. Zayne Fornear picked up a first-and-goal at the 8 before Vogel connected with Tevin Lee just short of the goal line, and Fornear punched it in from a yard out on fourth down for a 1-yard touchdown. Kameron Johnson’s extra point tied the score at 7-7 with 7:35 remaining in the third period.
    A string of three punts followed as the defenses resumed their dominance, but then Du Quoin put together what would be the decisive drive of the ball game. After taking over on their own 22 with 10:17 to play, the Indians went 78 yards on 10 plays with Vogel finding tight end Devin Jones on a play-action pass from eight yards out with 5:24 left in the game. Jones’ touchdown and the extra point put Du Quoin up 14-7.
    “The first half we were kind of flustered a little bit offensively, it was some tough sledding,” Hill said. “We didn’t get much going in the run game, throwing the ball we hadn’t found our groove yet, but (Vogel) bounced back in the second half making some really big throws, throws he probably wouldn’t have made a year ago. That shows he’s just that much more confident, being a senior in week seven now. He’s played really well for us. We knew there was going to be a time when we’d have to be efficient in the passing game and we were the other night. There were a couple big plays made, and a couple more that I think were almost made that showed we have those capabilities.”
    But Anna-Jonesboro wouldn’t go away. Converting two fourth downs in the process, the Wildcats used up nearly all of the game clock and scored on a 1-yard touchdown by Caleb Clover after going 68 yards in 12 plays. The Wildcats initially lined up to go for two and the win, but were flagged for holding, pushing the try back to the 11-yard line. McGrath couldn’t put the 28-yard kick through the uprights, and Du Quoin emerged with a four-game winning streak.
    Fornear led the ground game for DHS with 75 yards on 19 carries. Anthony Spiller (4 carries, 26 yards), Donovan McBride (2-7), Bryce Clarry (4-2), Chandler Stevenson (1-0) and Vogel (5-3) also ran the ball for the Indians. Vogel completed 8-of-16 passed for 120 yards, finding Edwards (1-34), Clarry (2-31), Smith (2-26), Lee (2-21) and Jones (1-8). Defensively, Stevenson and Spiller both had a team-high six tackles. McKinley Carver recorded a sack.
    Du Quoin’s extra-point team had struggled at times through the first four weeks of the season, but with two makes this past Friday, Johnson has now made good on 15 of his last 16 point-after tries.
    “We’ve expressed ever since the beginning of the year that (extra points) are a big play, it’s not a play that you can take off,” said Hill. “We told them that one point would be the difference in a ball game, and we got a good example (Friday night) of how important that point was. Kameron has been doing a really good job, the others have been doing a really good job up front on that unit. Those were two big points on Friday night.”
    Another are in which the Indians have excelled during the conference schedule is the turnover battle, which they’ve now won five weeks in a row. During that stretch, they’ve turned the ball over just once.
    “That’s a credit to the guys handling the ball within our offense, making a point to take care of it,” Hill said. “We tell them all the time if we can take care of the ball offensively and keep it in our hands, and our defense can do their job, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win football games. That’s what we’ve been doing, our defense has been executing well, offensively we’ve taken care of the ball. You really can’t ask for much more as a coach because you know that’s going to put you in good situations.”

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