Patriots hang on to top Rebels 16-14

Published 11:41 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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In a physical, hard-hitting season opener the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots (1-0) defeated the Zion Chapel Rebels (0-1) by a score of 16-14 on the road.

While the Patriots led for the majority of the game, the Rebels had the win within their grasp in the final minute of the game. Trailing 16-6 in the fourth quarter, Zion Chapel’s Mason Stuart threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Micah Fuller to cut the Pats’ lead to 16-12. Stuart then converted a two-point try to bring the Rebels within two points.

The ZCHS defense forced a quick three-and-out but a Pike Lib 49-yard punt pinned the Rebels inside their own 10.

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Zion Chapel then proceeded to march on a 14-play drive that ate up five minutes of game time. After driving inside the Pike Lib 10, Zion Chapel faced a fourth-and-three. That’s when confusion and controversy occurred.

Zion Chapel’s coaches believed the Rebels had one final timeout but officials declared that all three timeouts had been used. After Zion Chapel attempted to call timeout, the Rebels were flagged. Stuart’s fourth down heave then fell incomplete and Pike Lib was able to run out the final 40 seconds of the game and secure the win.

While Pike led for most of the game, the Rebels were able to get on the scoreboard first in the first quarter. Stuart capped off an 8-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. The PAT was blocked, however, and ZCHS led 6-0. Zion Chapel linebacker Brayden Benbow recovered a Pike Lib fumble to jumpstart the drive.

Pike Lib answered late in the first quarter when quarterback Dawson Bradford scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The PAT gave PLAS a 7-6 lead.

Neither side was able to get anything else going in the first half until PLAS ended the half on a 9-play, 72-yard drive deep into Rebel territory. While it seemed like a Pike Lib receiver managed to get out of bounds with only seconds remaining, officials ruled that the player’s momentum was stopped inbounds and time ran out on the half with PLAS maintaining the 7-6 lead.

Early in the third quarter, PLAS struck again when Bradford heaved a 39-yard pass to Michael Vaughn that was initially ruled incomplete. Three plays later, Kasey Morgan scored on a 14-yard touchdown run. The PAT was blocked and Pike’s lead swelled to 13-6.

Early in the fourth quarter, Pike drove deep into Zion Chapel territory again but the Rebel defense kept the Patriots out of the end zone. Pike’s Sawyer Keck managed to drill a 32-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-6, however.

Zion Chapel rolled up 294 yards of offense with 162 yards on the ground, while Pike churned out 240 yards of offense with 127 yards through the air. The two teams combined for a staggering 30 penalties for 263 yards, as well.

Morgan led the PLAS ground game with 74 yards and a score on 13 carries, while Bradford completed 11-of-17 passes for 127 yards and a scored a rushing touchdown. Vaughn caught three passes for 75 yards. On defense, Jackson Booth earned an interception.

Mason Stuart led the Rebel offense with 146 yards and a score on 20 carries along with completing 5-of-11 pass attempts for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brayden Benbow earned a fumble recovery on defense.

Pike Lib is back on the road next week against Bayside Academy, while Zion Chapel travels to Goshen.