In what coach Steve Frommeyer dubbed a bizarre football game for the sloppy field conditions, debatable calls, unusual plays and back-and-forth scoring, the Eminence Warriors edged past Trimble County, 24-20, on Friday night.
The victory sealed home-field advantage for the Warriors in the opening round of the state playoffs and gave them the runners-up spot in Class A, District Four behind Frankfort. Including their 1-0 forfeit win over Evangel Christian, the Warriors are 6-3 overall with North Hardin Christian closing out Eminence’s regular season this Friday night. Meanwhile, Trimble dropped its record to 3-5 and has two games left.
The Eminence-Trimble game, played at Trimble, came down to the wire in a contest that decided who would host a playoff game and who would be on the road. The Warriors held Trimble on four consecutive goal-line stance plays at the 9-yard line in the closing minute, then took two knees to come away with the slim 2-point win.
“It was just a bizarre game,” said Frommeyer, whose team out-played Trimble statistically but gave up big plays to keep the score close. “With the conditions and some of those plays, it was just strange.”
The Warriors took the opening kickoff and drove the ball down field, ending with TJ Cooper scoring on a 2-yard carry. Cooper also took the handoff and scored on the 2-point conversion to put Eminence ahead 8-0. During the second quarter, Trimble scored on a 1-yard carry and kicked the extra point to close the gap to 8-7. Neither team scored again until the second half.
Midway through the third quarter, Trimble punted the ball to the Warriors in what would have usually been a typical play. But with the sloppy conditions, the ball took a bad bounce and touched an Eminence player’s legs. On a debatable call, Trimble and Eminence players jumped on the ball in the end zone and Trimble was signaled with the touchdown. Trimble missed the extra point.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bradley Foree returned the ball 53 yards to set up good field position for the Warriors. The drive ended on a trick play when quarterback Dre Banta went out for a pass from Cooper, who found Banta in the end zone for the 4-yard TD play. Foree caught the 2-point conversion from Banta, putting Eminence back in front, 16-13.
Late in the third quarter, Eminence’s Brad Tapia intercepted a Trimble pass and returned it 35 yards into the end zone. The 2-point conversion pass was incomplete, which left Eminence ahead 22-13 with a quarter remaining.
Another unusual play happened during the fourth quarter when Eminence was driving the ball down field and in position to score at around the 25-yard line. Frommeyer called one play but the Eminence players called another when the referee was telling them to hurry up, Frommeyer said. Half of the team blocked, the other half did not and Banta ended up on the ground after being brought down in the backfield — the ball was knocked loose as he was falling. Most of the players on the field thought the play was over, but one Trimble player picked up the loose ball and ran it to the end zone in a confusing scene. Trimble then kicked the extra point to close the gap to 22-20.
On their next possession, the Warriors were in position to score but turned over the ball close to their goal line. Shiven Harris then ran the quarterback back into the end zone, knocked the ball loose, another Trimble player picked it up and Brad Tapia brought him down for a safety.
In the closing minutes, Trimble had the ball and Eminence was in prevent mode when Trimble broke open a 45-yard run to advance the ball to the 20-yard line. Trimble then moved the ball to the 9-yard line. Eminence held Trimble on four consecutive goal-line stance plays to take back possession and win the game.
“Given the obstacles we’ve had to face this year, I was really, really proud of our players,” Frommeyer said. “It was nice because we get district runners-up trophies and we can host a playoff game for the second straight year. We never gave up against Trimble, even when it got crazy at the end. It’s been a testament to their character all year.”
Eminence finished with 272 yards total offense while holding Trimble to just 119. Banta was 7-of-12 passing for 83 yards and Cooper took 25 handoffs for a team-high 135 yards. Defensively, Cooper also led the team with six tackles. Brad and Chad Tapia had five tackles each. On special teams, Bradley Foree finished with 140 yards from kickoffs. Frommeyer also wanted to point out the play from Harris, Dakota Duffey and JaCoby Moore on the offensive line, and Brandon Mitchell’s big 30-yard pass play from Banta during the third quarter that set up Eminence’s go-ahead touchdown.
The contest was considered the Apple Festival Bowl in conjunction with the Trimble County Apple Festival over the weekend. The Eminence players got t-shirts and won trophies. Cooper was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, Banta was named the Offensive Player of the Game and Chad Tapia was named Defensive Player of the Game.
The Warriors host North Hardin Christian this Friday at 7 p.m. North Hardin has an 0-3 record. The two teams played on Sept. 18 when Eminence won 54-36.
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