Mother Nature had a hand in muting the scheduled celebration honoring the 2009 WIAA Division 4 state champion Big Foot Chiefs Saturday afternoon.
The current Chiefs, however, still had plenty to be excited about.
Big Foot moved to 3-2 on the season after a thrilling 27-25 victory over winless Clinton. The game was billed as a community celebration to showcase the Chiefs’ new facility and honor the title team on its 10th anniversary.
While the celebration still went on, a steady rain kept the crowds down, and the game sloppy.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars broke through for a pair of touchdowns to take a 13-0 lead. Jack Henschler had a nifty 20-yard run to paydirt, while Tyler Harrington bulldozed his way in from two yards out to make it 13-0.
The Cougars then committed a pair of special teams miscues that would significantly alter the course of the game.
Working on soaked field turf with a wet football, the Cougars had back-to-back punt snaps go awry. On the first, the Chiefs took over on the Clinton 19. Just two plays later, Cole Vance scampered in from 10 yards out to make it 13-6.
After the next punting mishap, the Chiefs took over at the Clinton’s 6, whereupon Vance carried it in to tie the game at 13.
In the second half, the teams volleyed back and forth, with the Chiefs taking their first lead, 21-13, on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Basil Demco to Owen Martin.
The Chiefs made a mistake of their own on their next possession, as a Demco fumble gave the Cougars possession at Big Foot’s 25-yard line.
Henschler later plunged in from the one to make it 21-19. After a Cougar defensive stop, Henschler again led the Cougars on a drive and capped it himself with a 17-yard run to give the Cougars a 25-21 lead with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
After the teams exchanged empty possessions, the Chiefs mounted what would turn into the game-winning drive.
A pair of clutch passes by Demco keyed the possession. On the first, he lofted a touch pass to sophomore Alex Schmitz, who out-leaped his defender to come down with a 33-yard reception.
Then, with the Chiefs facing a fourth-and-10 from the 17-yard line, Demco hit Martin on a slant route for a 17-yard score to make it 27-25.
“The ball was kind of behind me so I had to turn back a little,” Martin said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to help the team win the game. It was more of an instinct. See the ball, go get it.”
Demco said Martin is his go-to guy, with star receiver Jack Gillingham saddled with a club on his hand.
“I have a lot of faith in Owen,” Demco said. “He can make plays anywhere on the field. Especially with Jack not able to play like he’s used to, Owen is going to make a lot of plays.”
The Cougars didn’t simply roll over after giving up the lead. Clinton embarked on a 13-play drive that ended on Big Foot’s 24.
“I was happy with how we competed out there,” Clinton coach Jacob Standiford said. “We just made too many mistakes. Big Foot had to play on this field too, and they made some mistakes. But they didn’t give us the ball twice inside the 20, and that was the difference.”
Big Foot coach Mike Welden said his team overcame adversity to post its third win.
“That’s not how we draw it up,” Welden said. “But down 13-0, we could have easily packed it in. That’s not the makeup of our team. We battle every game, and at the end of the day we found a way to win, and that was the most important thing.”
BIG FOOT 27, CLINTON 25
Clinton 0 13 12 0—25
Big Foot 0 13 8 6—27
Scoring: C—Jack Henschler 20 run (Juan Aceves kick). C—Tyler Harrington 2 run (kick missed). BF—Cole Vance 10 run (kick missed). BF—Vance 6 run (Owen Martin kick). BF—Martin 33 pass from Basil Demco (Demco run). C—Henschler 1 run (kick missed). C—Henschler 17 run (conversion failed). BF—Martin 17 pass from Demco (kick failed).
Statistics: First downs—C 16, BF 9. Rushing—C 59-332, BF 35-94. Passing yards—C 22, BF 104. Passes—C 5-2-0, BF 12-6-0. Fumbles—C 0-0, BF 2-2. Penalties—C 9-53, BF 5-25.