HERSCHER - After falling behind by double digits very early, the Seneca Fighting Irish came back to lead at halftime and stay on a possible playoff course.
But after holding the Tigers scoreless in each of their final four drives of the first half, the Irish allowed Herscher touchdowns on each of its first three possessions of the second half. That late offensive efficiency enabled the equally desperate Tigers to win 31-23 in Interstate Eight Conference crossover play Friday night.
With the loss, the 4-4 Irish would need a lot of help to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2001, even with a win in week nine.
The Irish started the game's opening possession in Tigers territory but went three and out. Herscher promptly marched 80 yards in five plays for the first touchdown of the game. Dalton Sproul had a 48-yard run to set up a 6-yard Chase Fontinel run into the end zone.
Another fruitless Irish drive, which included an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5 led to a 25-yard field goal from Evan Regez for a 10-0 Tigers lead with 2:49 still left in the first quarter.
Two Seneca fumble recoveries allowed the Irish to take the lead. The first, which came as the Tigers were returning a punt, gave the Irish the ball at the Herscher 14. Four plays later, Peyton Schrag scored on a quarterback sneak from the 3.
Herscher fumbled again on its second offensive play after getting the ball back, with Ryan McRaven recovering for the Irish. On the very next play, Seneca's Bo Taylor burst up the middle and ran 50 yards to pay dirt, giving the Irish a 13-10 lead with 10:28 still left in the second quarter.
The Tigers drove from their own 28 as far as the Irish 7 later in the second, but a taunting penalty helped restrict them to a 40-yard field goal attempt, which was missed. It was part of a first half in which the Tigers were penalized seven times for 53 yards; the Irish were flagged once for 5.
Herscher marched 60 yards in eight plays on the opening drive of the third quarter to regain the lead, with Fontinel scoring on an 8-yard run. The lead lasted for 19 seconds of game time. Logan Pifer returned the resultant kickoff 27 yards to the Seneca 45, and on the next play, Taylor went left and then cut right on his way to a 55-yard touchdown rush.
The Tigers came right back with an eight-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-20 lead with 5:01 left in the third. Tigers quarterback Logan Orr, on in relief of Sproul, who was hurt in the first half, went 4-for-5 on the series, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Guimond.
Following an Irish punt, Herscher put together its longest drive yet, going 97 yards in 11 plays. A 13-yard touchdown pass from Orr to Kyle Burton gave the Tigers another double-digit lead with 7:55 to play.
That lead held up. Seneca got a 27-yard field goal from Austin Applebee to make it 31-23 with 3:51 to play, but the Tigers recovered the onside kick and ate all but 13 seconds off the clock before turning it over on downs. The last Irish gasp fell short.