NEW MATAMORAS - Frontier running back Jared Howell scored the game- winning touchdown with less than a minute to play as the Cougars rallied for a 34-29 victory over the Caldwell Redskins in a dramatic Pioneer Valley Conference clash Friday night at Frontier High school.
Howell scored on a four- yard run for his second touchdown run of the night with just 50 seconds to play in the game to cap a 13-play, 71-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock.
"Our line was just great tonight," said the junior Howell, who finished the game with 68 yards on 16 carries. "We just kept pushing it and it's just great to get a win at home."
The evening got off to a rough start for the Cougars when a backward pass from quarterback Jordan Jefferson was mishandled resulting in flanker Eddie Salazar being tackled in the end zone by a slew of Redskin defenders for a safety.
The Skins went right back to work on the ensuing kickoff when freshman Bricker Lori rambled 32-yards down the right sidelines for a touchdown and an 8-0 Caldwell lead.
It took the Cougars just two plays to even things up when Salazar took a reverse 62-yards to the house and when Howell ran in the two-point conversion it was an 8-8 ballgame.
Frontier 34 Caldwell 29
Caldwell 15 0 14 0 - 29
Frontier 14 8 0 12 - 34
C: Safety Eddie Salazar tackled in end zone 11:28
C: Bricker Lori 32 yd. run (kick no good) 8:57
F: Salazar 62 yd. run (Jared Howell run) 8:02
C: Jared Leasure 15 yd. pass from Tanner Clark (Alexi Cubas kick) 4:35
F: Taylor Merckle 15 yd. run (2 pt. attempt failed) 3:55
F: Howell 4 yd. run (Merckle run) :43
C: Andrew Minosky 1 yd. run (Cubas kick) 9:16
C: Caleb Van Meter 2 yd. run (Cubas kick) 1:47
F: Jordan Jefferson 4 yd. run (2 pt attempt failed) 8:53
F: Howell 3yd. run (2 pt attempt failed) :50
Caldwell: First Downs: 14, Rushes-yards: 46-252, Passing Yards: 15, Total yards: 267, Penalties-yards: 9-80, Punts-avg.: 3-29.7, Fumbles-lost 1-0, Turnovers: 1.
Frontier: First Downs: 15, Rushes-yards: 43-228, Passing yards: 123, Total yards: 351, Penalties-yards: 6-52, Punts-avg. 0, Fumbles-lost 2-1, Turnovers: 1.
Caldwell: Rushing: Lori: 12-124 TD, Minosky: 20-80 TD, VanMeter: 11-39, Hardesty: 1-6, Rayner: 2-3. Passing: Clark 1-1-15, TD, Minosky 0-2 INT. Receiving: Leasure: 1-15, TD.
Frontier: Rushing: Merckle: 18-90, TD, Howell: 16-68, 2TD, Salazar: 4-66, TD, Jefferson: 5-4, TD. Passing: Jefferson: 6-10-123. Receiving: Dylan Absher: 1-38, Salazar: 1-33, Merckle: 3-33, Howell: 1-19.
Next game: Caldwell at Fort Frye, Frontier (Home) vs. Valley.
"It was just great blocking by our guys up front," said Salazar. "I had to miss one guy and then Dusty Wright made a great corner block and helped me cut it back in."
Caldwell recaptured the lead on it's next possession when freshman quarterback Tanner Clark found Jared Leasure in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 15-8 Caldwell lead.
Once again it wouldn't take the Cougars long to answer when after Jefferson connected on a 38-yard pass to Dylan Absher, Taylor Merckle scored on a 15-yard run to cut the lead to one at 15-14.
"Offensively we ran the ball well just like we always do," said Merckle, who netted 123 total yards in the game. "Our line was solid and allowed us to move the ball."
The Frontier defense limited Caldwell to just seven offensive plays in the second quarter and when Howell scored on a 4-yard run with 43 seconds left, the Cougars went to intermission with a 22-15 lead.
Caldwell took the opening kick of the second half and drove 57-yards on just five plays with Andrew Minosky plunging in from one-yard out to even things up once again at 22-22.
Late in the third quarter Caldwell got a huge break when Frontier fumbled deep in their own territory and Lori recovered at the Frontier eight-yard line.
Two plays later, senior Caleb VanMeter scored from two yards out and Caldwell held a 29-22 lead heading to the final period.
The Cougars got outstanding field position on their next possession and the bruising running of Howell and Merckle set up Jefferson's four-yard touchdown run to make it 29-28.
Frontier head coach Todd Bradford elected to go for two and the lead but Jefferson was stopped short of the goal-line to keep the Redskin lead at one.
The Cougar defense came up huge on the next Caldwell possession to force a punt and set up the game winning drive.
After Howell's touchdown, Caldwell marched the ball down to the Frontier 30-yard line with six seconds left, but a desperation pass from Minosky was intercepted by Salazar to secure the third Cougar victory of the season.
"We finally brought things together there and played like a team," said Bradford. "I'm proud of our boys and just glad that we were able to come out on top."
Merckle paced the Cougar offense with 90 yards rushing on 18 carries, while Jefferson completed six-of-10 passes for 123 yards.
Lori led the Skins with 124 yards rushing on a dozen carries, while Minosky carried 20 times for 80 yards.
The Cougars improved to 3-4 and 2-2 in the PVC with the win, while Caldwell dropped to 1-5 and 0-4 with the defeat.
Frontier will stay at home next week to battle Valley, while the Skins host Fort Frye.