Billy Swestka reaches for the pigskin as a Rockford players grabs hold of his ankles as time expires in the first half of Friday’s playoff game. Also in on the play are Eli Nymeyer (10) and Elliot Dietzenbach (8). (Photo courtesy of JScott Images,
Billy Swestka reaches for the pigskin as a Rockford players grabs hold of his ankles as time expires in the first half of Friday’s playoff game. Also in on the play are Eli Nymeyer (10) and Elliot Dietzenbach (8). (Photo courtesy of JScott Images,

Momentum bursts shuffled constantly between Turkey Valley and Rockford with the final stake driven through the hearts of the Trojan players and fans in the final 15 seconds. Falling 64-58, the Trojan football team (8-2) concluded its 2018 playoff bid at home in the first round of the eight-man football playoffs Friday, Oct. 26.

“We scored 58 points so it is obvious that the offense played well,” said Coach Mark Scott. “Defensively their 225-pound tailback was more than our smaller players could handle for all four periods.”

There for the taking

Rockford set the tone for the night with a 39-yard touchdown pass on the first play on scrimmage. With possession of the pigskin the Trojans drove the length of the field to tie the score, 8-8. Playing with his nose to the gridiron, Ethan Leibold came up with a fumble recovery to give TV back the ball. Converting on a fourth down and four to go, TV punched Rockford in the mouth as Leibold handed off to Dylan Elsbernd for a 29-yard TD. Rockford would find the goal line once more in the first quarter; however, the Trojans stuffed the two-point attempt to hold a 16-14 lead.

Minutes into the second frame, Eli Reicks found his way around an end on a sweep for his first score of the game; however, it was less than a minute later when Rockford broke loose on a 44-yard TD run. With the score knotted 22-all, the Trojans had their hands full. Working to keep Rockford off the board, Seth Huinker came up with a big interception with just under five minutes remaining. There was plenty of action in closing minutes of the first half with each squad scoring once more to land the score 30-28 in favor of Rockford at the break.

Returning to the field with determination for the third quarter, the Trojans drove down the field that ended with Leibold airing out a pass to Billy Swestka to regain a 34-30 lead. Tides quickly turned as Rockford tied the game 36-all. A 34-yard Eli Nymeyer reception returned the advantage to TV, 44-36. When all was said and done, the third segment ended in a 44-44 tie and set up a race to the finish.

On a quarterback keeper, Leibold pushed his way over the goal line with 10:28 remaining. Rockford reciprocated the score two minutes later. As time ran off the clock, TV appeared to be draining the time as it threatened to score. Elsbernd bounced one-yard into the end zone from the one-yard line with 3:35 remaining, holding a 58-50 lead. It took Rockford 36 seconds to tie the game, 58-58. TV was forced to punt for the third time in the game with 2:13 left, giving Rockford the opportunity to control the tempo and game. With 15.4 ticks left, Rockford eluded the Trojan defense for five yards for the score, lead and eventually the win, 64-58.

Final notes

The Trojans provided a balanced attack as they picked up 456 yards of offense with 241 through the air and 215 on the ground.

“Ethan (Leibold) showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in 8-player football. He made great decisions all night and ran the offense well,” praised Coach Scott. “We did create three turnovers. Ethan Leibold had a fumble recover, Billy Swestka intercepted a pass before half and Seth Hunker made a great play in the end zone to stop a drive.”

Leibold rushed 28 times for 128 yards to lead the team and completed 13-for-20 passes for another 241 yards. Billy Swestka, Dylan Elsbernd and Eli Nymeyer were the big targets on the receiving end of the passes. Swestka hauled in five receptions for 75 yards while Elsbernd caught three passes for 60 yards. Nymeyer had a pair of receptions for 56 yards.

Elliot Dietzenbach led the defense with seven solo and 10 assisted stops. Kannon Leuenberger was there for six solo and 11 assisted tackles, while Carter Reicks dragged down three solo and 11 assisted tackles.

Picking up interceptions were Seth Huinker and Swestka, while Leibold had a fumble recovery.

So long

The Trojans end their season with this loss but also with heads held high for a successful season and the experience the young squad earned. 

“We came up on the short end of a well played, hard fought high school football game,” said Coach Scott. “Our players gave it their all against a much larger and more physical Rockford team.”

Graduating at the end of the year will be Carter Reicks, Billy Swestka and Jason Herold.