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Chalker rallies past Mathews in thriller

October 19, 2013
By KAYLA HANUSCHAK - Tribune Chronicle correspondent ( , Underthelights

VIENNA - It was second-and-10 on Chalker's 12-yard line when the whistles blew. A pass interference penalty against the Wildcats caused them to move back to the 22-yard line. At this point, Mathews had a five-point edge on the Wildcats with less than 2 minutes to play.

When second-and-20 came, Chalker senior quarterback Austin Casper passed the ball to senior receiver Jerry Barker for a 3-yard gain. On third-and-17, Casper's pass was incomplete. Winning the game did not seem to be in the cards for the Wildcats.

But, when fourth-and-17 came, Wildcat sophomore Travis Lehman changed the face of the game on Friday night. With 1:25 left, Lehman caught a pass from Casper and easily weaved in and out of the Mustang defense for a 19-yard touchdown. Then, junior receiver Justin Len also caught Casper's pass for the 2-point conversion, thrusting the final score to 30-27 in the direction of Chalker at Booster Stadium.

"Perseverance is what helped us win the game," Chalker coach Ryan Slone said. "Our kids have a never-quit, never-give-up attitude. They showed it tonight. We were down in the second half twice. We persevered and came back. That fourth-and-17, that last play, we figured their safety was playing deep; we called the same play three times. The third time was the charm."

Chalker accumulated 210 rushing yards, 126 passing yards and 20 first downs compared to Mathews' 155 rushing, 120 passing and seven first downs.

"It felt great," Lehman said. "I just knew that we needed to get a win against them to get in the playoffs. It just felt great to get a win against these guys. They are longtime rivals. Beating them tonight felt great.

"It (the touchdown catch) was late in the game, so catching that touchdown basically sealed the deal. We got the ball back on the interception so we had to take a knee and we pretty much ended it from there."

Just like the last series, Chalker had its hands full with Mathews all night. The Mustangs rallied in the third quarter, scoring 14 points while completely shutting out Chalker's offense.

Mathews running back Austin Arnal broke away from the pack and ran for a 44-yard touchdown with 8:29 left in the third, scoring the first of two touchdowns for Mathews in that frame. He finished with 14 carries for 83 yards. The second touchdown came from quarterback Cobie Pratt, who basically carried half of the defensive line into the end zone with him. Pratt threw for 120 yards and rushed for 20 yards.

"He (Pratt) played well," Mathews coach Mike Palumbo said. "He is a leader on the team. The last couple of weeks he has been playing really good and we can count on him. They were stacking the box and we live and die by running the ball and we opened up our option. We kind of moved them out. It was just the coaching staff seeing their alignment and getting our plays going and changing people off on their assignments."

Slone and his coaching staff knew the adjustments to make in order to help his team prevail.

"We just put as many in the box as we can," Slone said. "We knew what they were going to do to us. We played man across the board on 20 and then everyone else was in the box. We had 10 guys in the box the whole night. It was just making plays. He's (Pratt) a great player, and Mathews is a great football team, so they were going to get their scores and touches. We just had to get one more than they did, and we did."

Overall, Palumbo was happy with the performance of his team, but also knows that it takes work to pull off a winning season. He has no doubts that his team will be ready to take on Grand Valley at home next week.

"We did play well," Palumbo said. "It was a tough loss. We are sitting at 4-4 and we want to have a winning record. Six-and-four sounds a lot better than 4-6. We have two games left, and we have a great group of seniors, and we will be ready."

Slone expects nothing less out of his team than the effort that they put out. He explained to his team that they are capable of getting into the playoffs and doing well, and he truly believes that his team can do it.

"We just told the kids that this performance tonight proved that this is a conference-championship performance," Slone said. "We have two games left. Windham, next week, is an extremely good team. Their record doesn't show how good of a team they are. They have athletes out the window, and they are going to play us tough because it is 10 minutes away. We have to be ready, but our kids are going to enjoy this tonight."