CALDWELL - Football is widely known as a game of inches.
Never has this been more apparent than it was on Friday night at the Noble County Fairgrounds, when the Fort Frye Cadets defeated the Caldwell Redskins 35-34 in an absolutely thrilling Pioneer Valley Conference contest.
It all came down to a two-point conversion. With Fort Frye up 35-34 in overtime, the Redskins attempted a two-point conversion to give Caldwell a homecoming victory as well as possibly end Fort Frye's PVC and playoff hopes. However, the Cadet defense rose to the occasion and made a season-saving stop to seal the victory.
PAM BROOKER Special to The Times
Fort Frye’s Max Alsbach (32) takes a pitch and is running right on a sweep as the Caldwell defense, led by Jared Leasure (3), pursues at the Noble County Fairgrounds Friday night.
PAM BROOKER Special to The Times
Fort Frye’s Chandler Lang (11) shakes hands with Caldwell’s Kale Rayner (24) after a hard-fought overtime game at the Noble County Fairgrounds Friday night.
"We knew it was going to be this kind of game," said Fort Frye head coach Eric Huck. "We knew what they were gonna do, it's just a matter of coming out here and stopping it. They're going to try to run you over, and you've got to stop it. We had trouble stopping it at times, but we were able to do just enough."
Caldwell erased deficits of 21-0 in the second quarter and 28-20 in the fourth quarter. Down 28-20 with 4:13 left in the game, the Redskins got a 10 yard scoring run from Andrew Minosky. Caleb VanMeter ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28.
Fort Frye was able to move the ball on its final possession of the fourth quarter, but could not put points on the board before the clock struck zero, forcing overtime.
At Noble County Fairgrounds
Fort Frye 35, Caldwell 34
FF 14 7 0 7 7 - 35
C 0 7 13 8 6 - 34
FF- Spencer Lang 39 pass from Chandler Lang, C. Lang kick, 10:18
FF- C. Lang 1 run, C. Lang kick, 3:37
FF- Colten Shuster 2 pass from C. Lang, C. Lang kick, 6:59
C- Caleb VanMeter 6 run, Alexi Cubas kick, 0:16
C- Chance Stoffel 1 run, Cubas kick, 7:22
C- Kale Rayner 3 run, kick failed, 6:34
FF- C. Lang 16 run, C. Lang kick, 10:42
C- Andrew Minosky 11 run, VanMeter conversion run, 4:13
FF- Max Alsbach 3 run, C. Lang kick
C- VanMeter 1 run, conversion failed
Team stats: Rushing: Fort Frye: 40-202; Caldwell 49-203; Passing: Fort Frye: 10-13-177-0; Caldwell: 0-1-0-0; Total yards: Fort Frye: 379; Caldwell 203; First downs: Fort Frye: 16; Caldwell: 10; Penalties/yds: Fort Frye: 3/28; Caldwell: 2/27; Punts/avg: Fort Frye: None; Caldwell: 2/37; Fumbles/lost: Fort Frye 2/2; Caldwell: 0/0
Individual stats: Rushing: Fort Frye: Alsbach 19-105, 1td; C. Lang 12-65, 2td; S. Lang 8-23; Tyson Riggs 1-9; Caldwell: Caleb VanMeter 22-70, 2td; Bricker Lori 10-64; Minosky 10-47, 1td; Chance Stoffel 3-13, 1td; Kale Rayner 4-9, 1td; Passing: Fort Frye: C. Lang 10-13-177-0, 2td; Caldwell: Minosky 0-1-0-0; Receiving: Fort Frye: S. Lang 5-101, 1td; Tyser Shilling 2-35; Justin Massey 1-30; Shuster 2-11, 1td
Next games: Wheeling Central at Caldwell Saturday; Shenandoah at Fort Frye Friday
The Cadets got the ball first, and a 12 yard run from Max Alsbach and a five yard run from Chandler Lang put the ball inside the 5 yard line. Two plays later, Alsbach hit paydirt on a two yard burst, followed by Lang's PAT to make it 35-28.
On Caldwell's possession, the Redskins were able to get inside the Cadets' 10 yard line thanks to the running of VanMeter and Kale Rayner. On 2nd and goal from the 6, VanMeter ran for a yard and Bricker Lori pushed for four more to set up a 4th and goal at the 1. VanMeter would burst his way in to make it 35-34.
Rather than kick the extra point, Caldwell head coach Josh Perkins elected to go for the win. On the two-point conversion, VanMeter took the snap and pushed his way to the 1, but could not get into the end zone, as the Cadets were able to make the game winning stop.
"I'd go for two again at the drop of a hat," Perkins said. "I'm proud of our kids. The way they fought back after getting down. You know, it's football. Sometimes it goes good, sometimes it goes the other way."
Fort Frye began the scoring on its very first possession. After a nine yard run by Tyson Riggs netted a first down, quarterback Chandler Lang hit Spencer Lang on a 39 yard scoring strike to give the Cadets the early lead.
On its next possession, the Cadets added to their lead. Chandler connected with Colten Shuster for 10 yards and then Spencer for 19 more to set up 1st and 10 at the Caldwell 25. Alsbach then had runs of six and eight yards, followed by a seven yard run from Chandler. Chandler finished off the drive with a one yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
After a second straight three and out for Caldwell, Fort Frye went back to work. On 3rd and 16 from its own 12 yard line, Chandler hit Spencer for 37 yards and first down. Chandler then hit Justin Massey for 30 more yards to Caldwell's 22. Alsbach rumbled for 13 yards to set up 1st and goal from the 9. After Chandler ran for seven yards, he hit Shuster for a two yard touchdown pass.
Caldwell began chipping away on its next drive. Minosky had a 10 yard carry and Bricker Lori had a 13 yard carry to get the drive started. On 3rd and three at the Cadet 15, VanMeter ran for five yards to get the first down. Minosky then scampered for five yards, followed by VanMeter's six yard touchdown carry to get the Redskins on the board.
Coming out of halftime, Caldwell faced a 4th and goal situation from the Fort Frye 1 yard line. The drive was set up by a 43 yard run by Lori. The Redskins went for it, which proved wise as Kale Rayner punched it in for the score.
Then, disaster struck for the Cadets.
After the kick returner slipped at the one yard line, the Cadets then fumbled down inside their own 2. Caldwell jumped on the ball and capitalized on the great field position with a Rayner two yard touchdown run. The extra point failed, making it 21-20 Fort Frye.
The Cadets lost another fumble on their next possession, this time down inside the redzone.
On 3rd and 14 for Caldwell, Luke Yates came up with a crucial tackle in the backfield to prevent Caldwell from rallying again.
After getting the ball back, Chandler hit Tyser Shilling on a 22 yard pass, and then ran for the remaining 15 yards for a touchdown. Chandler kicked the PAT to make the score 28-20.
Overall, the younger of the Lang brothers was 10-13 passing for 177 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 65 yards and two scores.
"We knew it was going to be tough going in with their homecoming," Lang said. "We knew we had to dig down deep and get the job done. We're thrilled to death."
Caldwell continued to pound away on the ground, getting an 18 yard carry by VanMeter to give the Redskins a 1st and 10 at the Fort Frye 39. Later in the drive, on a 4th and 7 from the Fort Frye 24, it appeared the Cadets had stopped Caldwell, but a facemask was called giving the Redskins a first down. Minosky then reached the endzone from 10 yards out to make it 28-26, and then VanMeter ran in the two-point conversion to tie it up.
Huck said the game was unlike any other that he has coached.
"I don't know if I've ever been a part of a game like this," the coach explained. "Both teams are well-coached. I really respect those Caldwell guys. I'm extremely proud of our guys for the way they played, and finding a way to win. Champions find a way to win."
The win improved the Eric Huck-led Cadets to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the PVC, while the Redskins fall to 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the PVC.
Fort Frye will host Shenandoah in its final conference matchup of the season Friday, while the Redskins will host Wheeling Central in a non-conference tilt Saturday.