Jonathan Alder kicker Dylan Moore (31) boots the game-winning field goal on the hold from Cade Keaton (40) Friday evening as the Pioneers beat London, 24-23. Alder won the outright Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division title and will now prepare for the Division II state playoffs. (Photo submitted)
Jonathan Alder place kicker Dylan Moore was pretty calm amid all the celebration in describing what he had just done.
“I really didn’t think too much about it,” said the Pioneer junior. “I just went with my muscle memory.”
The muscles in his right leg permitted Moore to do his job when Friday night’s game at London on the line.
The result was a 22-yard field goal with 0.5 seconds left in the game as the Pioneers edged the Red Raiders, 24-23.
Moore said everything was perfect leading up to the game-winning kick.
“The snap and hold were both perfect,” he said.
And the kick?
“It was a beaut!!” he exclaimed.
The most beautiful thing about the kick was it allowed the Pioneers to finish the regular season with a 10-0 record and claim the outright championship (5-0) of the Central Buckeye Conference’s Kenton Trail Division.
Folks on both sides of the Madison County fence expected nothing but a slugfest and that’s exactly what they got.
The teams battled to a 0-0 deadlock at the end of the opening quarter.
JA had to punt twice during the first 12 minutes and forced the Red Raiders to lose the ball on downs after a 14-play series.
London held the ball as action moved into the ensuing period.
The Pioneers shot themselves in the foot with a horse-collar infraction and a face mask penalty as London mounted the first scoring drive of the night.
Caleb Sollars ended the series with a three-yard run into the end zone.
Seth Best’s extra point gave London a 7-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first half.
Alder had trouble mounting much in the way of offense as the Red Raiders were winning in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
JA punted on its next two possessions and the Red Raiders did likewise once.
London took over on its own 22 with 1:49 left in the second quarter.
Xavier Manville did most of the heavy lifting on the ground as the Red Raiders got down to the JA 18 as time expired.
The Pioneers, however, were whistled for another horse collar infraction.
Since the half could not end on a defensive penalty, London was given one untimed play from the 19-yard line.
Red Raider coach Kyle Cutler summoned Best, who split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal for a 10-0 halftime spread.
The second half was absolutely not for the faint of heart.
London had to punt on the opening series of the third quarter.
JA was flagged for holding on the return and started from its own 35.
London bottled up Garret Proxmire, JA’s 1,300 yard-plus rusher, and forced quarterback JT Keith to the air.
He found Jackson Izzard with a 28-yard strike that put Alder’s first points on the board.
Moore was precise on the extra point, cutting London’s lead to 10-7.
The Red Raiders are not known as a passing team.
Yet quarterback Juane Gardner rifled a pass to Jackson Jones at midfield.
Sollars and Manville took turns with plays on the ground, getting the ball down to the JA 32.
From there, Gardner lofted a pass over the JA secondary to Jones for the touchdown.
Best’s extra point attempt was blocked, leaving London up by a 16-7 count.
It did not take the Pioneers long to respond.
With Proxmire having trouble on the ground, Keith went once again to the aerial game.
Just three plays into the next series, he got the ball into Jacob Fenik’s hands.
Fenik hesitated just enough to lull a London defender, made a nifty cutback move and was off to the races.
Fenick didn’t stop until he had completed the 75-yard touchdown play.
Moore then booted the extra point that narrowed JA’s deficit to 16-14.
London coughed up the football on its next possession, with Alder’s Chase Maynard landing on it.
Alder couldn’t take advantage and ending up losing the ball on downs to end the quarter.
London began the final period with a series that ended when Gardner scored from 11 yards out.
With Best’s extra point, the Pioneers found themselves in a 23-14 hole.
The Keith-to-Fenik express revived hope for Pioneer Nation as the duo connected on a 73-yard scoring strike.
Moore’s conversion pulled JA to within 23-21 with 6:49 to play in the contest.
Alder’s defense forced a three-and-out in what proved to be the Red Raiders’ final possession of the game.
London’s punt forced the Pioneers to start their march on a very long field from their own seven-yard-line.
Keith gave JA a bit of breathing room with a completion to Fenik up to the 20.
Keith threw a couple of incompletions, but the Raiders were flagged for a pass interference that gave Alder a field down at its own 35.
Fenik picked up eight yards on a pair of carries before Keith threw to Izzard at the London 42.
Fenik added five more yards, which were quickly nullified by a holding call.
The ball was placed back at the Pioneer 47.
Jacob Fenik (7) of Alder fights off a London tackler Friday evening. Fenik gained 201 yards on pass receptions and added 75 on the ground as JA beat the Red Raiders, 24-23.(Photo submitted)
JA added only two yards on the next couple of plays as the timer reached the 1:40 mark.
Keith threw an incompletion, but London was caught holding.
That breathed new life into the Pioneers with a first down at the London 30 and with 1:34 to play.
Fenik notched 20 yards on two carries, but once again, JA was called for holding.
The ball was moved back to the London 25 with 1:05 left in regulation.
Fenik fought his way for four tough yards before JA coach Brett Glass kept trying to call a timeout.
The timer ran down to 38.9 seconds, but was reset to 52.0 after the TO was recognized.
With JA facing third-and-five, Fenik muscled his way to the London five-yard-line.
Glass was standing right by the side judge, watching the clock wind down.
The whistle for JA’s final timeout came with 0.5 ticks on the clock.
Moore ran out onto the field, but had to endure a couple more minutes as the Red Raiders burned their final two TOs in order to play with his nerves.
The strategy didn’t work as the kick sent JA into the Division III post-season with an undefeated record.
Glass said after the game he was speechless, but added, “I’m never speechless.”
Once he composed himself a bit, the JA coach analyzed his team’s performance.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get out of our own way during the first half,” he said. “London is a very physical team and they ‘outphysicaled’ and took it to us during the first half.
“Our guys, though, didn’t fold,” he said, “and Jacob Fenik made some big plays in our passing game.”
Alder will host a first-round playoff game on Friday at 7 p.m.
The Pioneers are listed at No. 2 in Region 11 of Division III.
If the unofficial ratings that came out early this morning remain the same when the official count is released Sunday afternoon, Alder will face No. 7 Thornville Sheridan (8-2).
...For the full story, select an option below.