NIXA, Mo. – Shane McInerney’s third field goal of the night with 1:42 left in regulation lifted Peru State to a 23-22 victory over the Evangel football team Saturday evening at Eagle Stadium.
McInerney’s 22-yard boot capped a 14-play drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes of the final period. It negated a furious third-quarter rally by Evangel that saw the Valor erase a 17-point halftime deficit by scoring all 22 of their points during a nine-minute span.
The Bobcat defense played a pivotal role throughout the contest, forcing four turnovers—three of which led to Peru State scoring drives—and limiting the EU offense to 199 yards of total offense.
PSC’s offense set the tone for the night on the game’s first possession, turning in a 12-play, 62-yard drive that was extended by a 31-yard completion by defensive lineman/punter Devin Adams on a fake punt at the EU 41.
After the Evangel defense stiffened to stop the march, McInerney converted a 30-yard field goal to give the Bobcats a 3-0 lead.
The Valor offense struggled to generate scoring chances in the opening half, moving the ball into Bobcat territory on just one occasion over the game’s first 30 minutes. A muffed punt by EU resulted in the game’s first turnover at the EU 15, which led to a Quinton Hawkins eight-yard touchdown run with 10:06 to play in the second quarter.
Another Evangel fumble late in the half resulted in a defensive score by the Bobcats, as Gerald Smith scooped up a loose football at the EU 27 and cruised into the end zone to stretch the Peru State lead to 17-0 with just over two minutes left on the clock.
Evangel registered just 32 yards of offense on 30 first-half plays from scrimmage, but the Valor offense roared to life in the third period. EU would need just four plays and 1:37 of clock time to put its first points on the board, as Dyllan Decker hooked up with Derome Williams on a 38-yard scoring pass to pull the Valor to within 10 points.
Two plays into the Bobcats’ opening possession of the half, Peyton Ross would strip quarterback Joey Dominguez of the football, which bounced into the end zone for a safety.
Dillon Hester brought the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards for an electric touchdown return that made it a 17-16 contest, just 2:45 into the second half.
Evangel wasn’t finished. The duo of Decker and Williams struck again on the Valor’s next offensive possession. After Decker completed his first three passes on the drive to move EU to the PSC 44, the senior quarterback found Williams open in the flat on a third-and-eight call, and the freshman running back sprinted untouched to pay dirt to hand Evangel a 22-17 lead with 4:50 to play in the period.
But Peru State’s offense found its footing late in the quarter, as Dominguez completed three passes for a total of 50 yards to set up a Bobcat scoring opportunity. Ki’Jana Owens 11-yard rush set up another McInerney field goal, this one from 32 yards out, to pull the Bobcats within two points.
The Bobcat defense would take its turn to deliver a pair of key blows early in the fourth quarter. Craig Jones picked off a Decker pass at the PSC 6 to stop an Evangel drive that could have extended the Valor lead.
On EU’s next possession, Armunz Matthews stepped in front of a third-down pass attempt at the Bobcat 39, once again foiling the home team’s bid to add to its fourth-quarter advantage.
Dominguez, who completed 14-of-16 passes in the game, responded to lead Peru in a series that would consume 7:47 and end with McInerney’s go-ahead field goal. Dominguez completed all four of his pass attempts on the drive, including a critical 28-yard completion to Dremel Jackson on a third-and-12 from the EU 45.
Jeremy Kucera ripped off a 13-yard rush to move the Bobcats to the EU 4, but the Evangel defense shut down the Peru ground game, halting Hawkins for no gains on three-consecutive rushing attempts to force McInerney’s field goal.
The Peru State defense sealed the outcome by forcing four straight Decker incompletions, as EU dropped its first home contest of the season.
Decker led the EU offense by completing 18-of-30 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Koel Orchard and Seth Cathey recorded matching game-high totals of 11 tackles, while Peyton Ross logged 10 stops to go along with his sack and forced fumble.
Hawkins paced Peru’s offense with 59 rushing yards on 17 attempts, and Jackson finished with five catches for 65 yards.