For the past five years, Pendleton Heights (4-3) acted as the “monkey on the back” to Delta (5-1), and Eagles head coach Chris Overholt was satisfied to see his team finally hit its stride and get that proverbial monkey off of their back after defeating the Arabians 28-21 last night.
The monkey was on the back of all the seniors and coaches in the weeks leading up to the game.
“The big thing that we wanted to hit home is that they’re a good team but we’re a good team too,” Overholt said. “Over the last four years we have found ways, whether it’s turnovers, penalties or whatever to keep them in the game, and good teams find a way to beat you when you give them those opportunities.”
It wasn’t easy for Delta though, as a muffed catch on a punt return resulted in Pendleton Heights recovering and capitalizing with a two-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Caden McClain on their first drive of the game.
“Right off the bat, special teams were rough,” Overholt said. “They had several big returns on us where we were out of our lanes.”
Last week, Delta used a heavy rushing attack in its win over New Castle, with all of its scores coming from the trenches. Last night, the Eagles had a more balanced, pass-heavy game, with all but one of their touchdowns being scored through the air.
“This week, we just knew that we’d have speed on the outside and our receivers would be able to get open, especially with the coverage they were playing,” senior quarterback Brady Hunt said.
It showed early, with the first drive for the Eagles being utilized on the ground thanks to big carries from Hunt, senior rushers Evan Conley and Luke Belangee. This was capped off with a ten-yard passing touchdown from Hunt to senior wide receiver Logan Manor to tie the game at seven.
Neither team would score again until 44 seconds left in the quarter, as Arabian senior running back Luke Bays sprinted 81 yards to put his team back up on top, 14-7 at the end of the first.
It would not take long for Delta to answer, as a couple of passes from Hunt to senior wide receivers Trevor Edgerton and Carson Neu set up a 29-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Abram Stitt with 9:35 left before halftime.
Heights quickly answered with another passing touchdown to go up 21-14 with 3:49 before halftime. They almost went up by two touchdowns after an interception from Hunt put the Arabians on the doorstep of the red zone. They would miss on the ensuing field goal attempt.
“Getting in at halftime only being down a score was big for us, knowing that we were going to get the ball back, and the fact that we weren’t down two scores was huge,” Overholt said.
In the second half, Delta took advantage of multiple mistakes, including a personal foul on the Arabians leading to a 31-yard passing touchdown two plays later from Hunt to Edgerton to tie the game at 21 early in the third quarter.
Three straight drives ending in punts from both teams followed until it all came together for the Eagles. After being stopped on third down on the Arabians 20-yard-line, Delta decided to go for it on 4th and 14. With one second on the play clock, the Eagles were able to catch Pendleton Heights sleeping, as Hunt would once again find Edgerton wide open in the far back corner of the endzone. The score put them on top 28-21 with 41 seconds left in the third and ultimately won them the game.
Pendleton Heights had one more attempt to tie the game up, but an interception by junior defensive back Parker Faletic with 5:14 left in the game ended any hope for an Arabians’ comeback.
“We just said tonight no matter what happens, because it’s not going to be perfect football,” Overholt said. “Find a way to overcome and don’t use that as an excuse. Our major message was to overcome adversity and stay in the fight.”
The Eagles finished the game with 269 rushing yards and 203 passing yards. Hunt, Manor, and Edgerton contributed to 272 yards. Edgerton finished with five catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns and Manor had four catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
“Their chemistry is huge for our team,” Overholt said. “They have a great rapport. Even little looks, little nods to move people around and do things like that is big. Having trust to put a jump ball up for a guy knowing he’s going to battle for that ball is big for our overall team chemistry.”
The three have been playing since middle school and the chemistry amongst them showed on the field last night.
“[Our chemistry] helps us along the way in tough games because we know we have our brothers’ backs,” Edgerton said.
Manor mimicked those same sentiments about his teammates.
“It’s all a brotherhood,” Manor said. “We all communicate really well, we’re all friends and it’s great to win together.”
Conley controlled the run game for the second week in a row, finishing with 24 carries for 111 yards. Hunt finished with 69 yards on the ground and Belangee had 32.
Pendleton Heights has lost three in a row after starting the season 4-0 and are looking to right the ship next week against Yorktown at home.
With the win, the Eagles move to 5-1 moving into a tie for second in the Hoosier Heritage Conference with reigning 5A state champion New Palestine. They will play another conference rival in Greenfield Central (2-3) next Friday, Oct.9.
Contact Evan Weaver with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter at @evan_weaver7.