By Justin Whitaker
LIZTON — In a battle of unbeaten Sagamore Conference foes, it was the Bruins who dimmed the Stars last night.
Tri-West (6-1) knocked off Class 3A No. 2-ranked Western Boone 32-30 with some explosive offense, playmaking on defense and by holding on at the end of the game in front of a packed homecoming crowd.
Trailing 32-30, The Stars received the ball with 41.7 seconds remaining at their own 22-yard line with no timeouts and had moved the ball to midfield before senior Chris Staton sealed the Tri-West victory with an interception to run the clock out.
“We made a couple more plays than they did. They make a couple more plays there at the end and they have a miraculous finish,” Tri-West coach Chris Coll said. “They are a great football team and obviously if we lost that football it would have been rough but that was a great high school football game between two good football teams and we got lucky enough to win in the end.”
Sophomore quarterback Jake Hendershot went 16 of 23 for 261 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 48 yards and two touchdowns rushing to help ground the Stars (6-1) and give them their first loss of the season.
“I got to do this for my guys,” Hendershot said. “Most guys on our team play both ways and I just come in and play on offense so I try my best to give them everything I have.”
Western Boone led 14-12 with a 1:30 remaining in the first half and was looking to add to their advantage before halftime. On fourth-and-2 at their own 45, Stars quarterback C.J. McMann threw a slant to his right and the Bruins’ Nick Phelps was there for the interception. The senior hugged the sideline, cut back to avoid McMann and converted the 48-yard pick six to switch momentum to Tri-West.
“Before the play started, I had a feeling the ball was going that way and I just read the coverage, it came to me and I took off,” Phelps said beaming. “I can’t even explain it, I’m so happy for this team, I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m just so happy for us right now.”
A key part in Hendershot’s exceptional play was the big-time playmaking ability of wide receiver Austin Lazaro. The senior snatched six balls for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
Lazaro, who made the IHSAA boys’ state track finals in two events last year, showcased his speed and strength as he took a short pass on the sideline, broke three tackles and went 34 yards to the end zone to put the Bruins up 25-14 with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“I wanted that touchdown and I didn’t want anything stopping me so I just ran and went for it,” Lazaro said.
Western Boone scored on the ensuing possession to get within three points at 25-22 before Tri-West responded as well. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Hendershot lofted a near-perfect 43-yard touchdown pass on the right sideline to a streaking Lazaro.
“The kid can throw the ball,” Coll said of Hendershot. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s hard to get on the ground but his decision-making… he’s a sophomore and he’s making decisions that I’m just impressed.”
The Bruins’ two-point conversion was successful to go up 32-22 before withstanding the Stars’ last ditch efforts.
With the victory, Tri-West remains unbeaten in the Sagamore Conference with games against Frankfort and Danville left on the schedule. The win over a top-ranked Class 3A opponent is an accomplishment that Coll hopes his team accepts well.
“More than anything I hope it motivates us to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve been what I consider successful this year because we haven’t worried too much about who we are playing, we haven’t worried about what happened the week before we just keep moving forward.
“More than anything it feels good to be heading into Week 8 of the season and playing for something serious. We aren’t just playing for pride we are going to make a run at the conference.”