SENECA – Field position was a big part of the story Friday night at Seneca, though a touchdown pass on a late fake field goal may be all that is remembered.
With the host Fighting Irish facing fourth-and-9 with seconds left in a tied game, junior Peter Hogue lined up to seemingly attempt a 33-yard field goal. Instead, holder Arik Applebee stood up as he caught the snap and lofted a pass that Tyler McKinney grabbed in the right corner of the end zone.
Dwight never came close to scoring over the final 18.8 seconds, meaning the Irish had scored the winning touchdown in a 14-7 season-opening win on a play they had never even practiced.
“I was already getting set up for the kick and (Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle) pulled me over, comes over and tells me,” Applebee said. “I was shocked at first. I knew he knew what he was doing. I had faith in Tyler McKinney for catching the ball. I had faith in our line for holding them up long enough for me to throw the ball.”
Dwight began first-quarter drives at its own 28 and 37 yard lines before getting to start twice deep in Fighting Irish territory in the second. The first time, when the Trojans started at Seneca’s 29 after a turnover on downs on a busted fourth-down play, they failed to capitalize, with Seneca’s Justin Ralls coming up with a third-down sack that forced a punt.
The Seneca offense went backward on the ensuing drive, however, and the Trojans fair-caught a punt at the Irish 39. With some help from a horse-collar penalty on the Irish, they took advantage of the opportunity, getting a 13-yard touchdown run from Jack Davidson at the 1:50 mark of the second quarter. The 7-0 lead remained intact at halftime.
Seneca had tied the game at 7-7 when Zach Russell scored from two yards out on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak with 2:39 left in the third quarter. Seneca, after starting its first drive of the second half at Dwight’s 35, turned the ball over on downs, but allowing the Irish to start at the Dwight 23 proved too much for the Dwight defense on the second series of the half.
“(Field position) was the name of the game,” O’Boyle said. “We were pinned so deep in the first half. I wasn’t confident to get in our spread formations with the shotgun snaps and all that with a lot of inexperience out there, and it showed. They were able to load the box on us, took our run game away, and luckily our defense kept us in the game.”
The game was Dwight’s first since leaving the Interstate Eight Conference for the Sangamon Valley, even if it was against a longtime former Interstate Eight rival in the Irish. Seneca is the only Interstate Eight opponent Dwight will face this season.
Seneca now owns a seven-game winning streak on the Trojans, who had last defeated the Irish 34-28 in 2007.