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Elgin edges Wildcats in final seconds

By Greg Evans

Late mistakes and a controversial final play will haunt Piedmont this offseason after the Wildcats fell to the Elgin Owls 38-35 on Friday night.

Elgin marched down the field in the waning seconds and snuck a ball through the uprights to go ahead 38-35. The Owls kicked a short onside kick after the go ahead field goal. The ball appeared to be touched before it traveled the required 10 yards.

“It was a blown call,” Coach Craig Church said immediately after the game. “Clear and simple. The ball didn’t travel the required 10 yards. The kid touched it before it had traveled.”

The onside recovery ended the Wildcats’ playoff aspirations but Piedmont never quite looked like themselves against Elgin.

On their first drive, Piedmont was able to get two first downs in its first two plays. The Wildcats marched down into the redzone but turned the ball over on downs. Elgin, usually known for its more passing oriented attack, came out wanting to run the ball and their first drive showed it. The Owls dashed down the right side of the field to get into scoring position and then scored from five yards out to take an early lead.

The Wildcats answered on their next drive when Brett Adams found Christian Foster for a 57-yard touchdown score, Piedmont trailed 7-6 with 6:14 left in the first quarter. Elgin’s offense continued to roll and tacked on a 10-yard touchdown run with under two minutes left in the first quarter.

Piedmont, again, answered immediately following an Elgin score. The Wildcats marched down the field and Mitchell McGinnis found pay dirt from a yard out and a pass to Steffen Funkhouser helped tie the game up.

On the Owls next offensive possession, Piedmont’s defense forced Elgin to punt but the punt was muffed. Elgin recovered the ball and scored a couple plays later. Piedmont struggled to put a solid drive together in the second quarter and Elgin missed a field goal in the closing moments before the break. The Owls lead 21-14 at halftime.

Piedmont’s defense came out of the break and recovered an Elgin fumble. Adams and Funkhouser connected on a fourth down to help set up a Darrius Burris five yard score to bring the score even at 21.

The Wildcat defense struck again on Elgin’s next possession when Anthony Adigun intercepted an Owl pass in the endzone. However, Piedmont couldn’t convert the turnover into points. After three quarters, the game was still knotted up at 21.

Elgin got a lucky break with just under 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Owls blocked a Wildcat punt and then returned the block for a score. Piedmont wasn’t going to quit and the defense recovered another fumble. This time the Wildcats capitalized on the turnover when Adams found Foster for a 26-yard score.

Elgin answered on their next drive with a 6-yard touchdown score.

Piedmont’s defense stepped up to the task again with under five minutes left in the game when Funkhouser picked off an Elgin pass at the 50-yard line. Adams found Foster in the back of the endzone 30 seconds later and the Wildcats again found themselves tied with the Owls.

The ball returned to Elgin and Piedmont needed one more stop from their defense. They got that stop when Elgin failed to convert a fourth down try with 1:29 left in the ball game. Funkhouser and Foster continued to help Adams make big plays in the passing game but a pass sailed on Adams with under a minute left and Elgin capitalized. The Owls took the ball down the field and hit the go ahead field goal with just 4.4 seconds left in the game.

“(Our guys) never stopped competing,” Church said. “I’m proud of the way we competed and the way we played. We made mistakes, I made mistakes, but we played our hearts out. Our guys played hard the entire game.”

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