When it was all said and done, Josh Laux and Nick Etue ended their Evergreen football careers in style.
With 6:41 left in the game, Laux took a short pass from Etue over the middle and raced 66 yards for what proved to be the game winning score in a 28-26 win over Archbold to get the Vikings to the .500 mark at 5-5.
“I can’t be any prouder of our seniors and what they have done for our program,” said victorious coach Paul Amstutz. “They went from 0-10 when they were sophomores to 5-5 now, I’m very happy for them they were able to win the last game they played together.”
Evergreen threatened early, using the rushing of Etue and Levi Carson, along with two first down catches from Dylan Komisarek to get to the Blue Streak 6 yard line.
But Etue’s ill-advised pass into traffic was picked off by Isaac Petersen ending the scoring chance.
Archbold made the most of that opportunity, scoring on the first of four big plays on the evening, as Gabe Petersen flipped a throwback screen to Sam Petersen, and after breaking a tackle, he tight roped the sideline 60 yards for a score at the 4:47 mark of the first giving Archbold a 7-0 lead.
The Vikes answered right back as Laux’ diving catch on a fake punt pass picked up 14, and Etue went 5 for 5 on the drive before Carson blasted in from the eight on the first play of the second quarter to tie the score.
Two more times Evergreen reached the red zone in the first half, but were turned away the first time when Etue’s pass hit the grass in the eyes of everyone except the men in stripes, ended up in the arms of Archbold’s Nick Rodriguez.
Grant Donnald’s 21 yard interception return of a Gabe Petersen pass on the very next play put Evergreen at the Streak 18 but a pair of incompletions fizzled that chance as the teams went to the half deadlocked.
The second half turned into a back-and-forth affair with Archbold drawing back in front when Sam Petersen went 51 yards for a score five plays into the third quarter to make it 14-7.
Evergreen put together a 13 play 75 yard drive to answer.
Tyler Noe’s 24 yard catch on a fourth down play put the ball at the Archbold 8, where three plays later, Carson bulled in from two yards away to tie the game.
Archbold came back with their third long scoring play, this time from Derek Walker who got the edge and went 43 yards at the 3:32 mark of the third. The conversion try went awry because of a bad snap, leaving the score at 20-14.
The Streaks seemingly seized momentum as they recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Etue took that momentum right back to the Vikings as his interception on Walker’s option throw-back pass gave Evergreen possession at their 35.
Carson’s 14 yard run and a 19 yard Laux reception put the ball inside the 10 where Etue scored from five yards away to tie the game with 10:45 left.
The snap for the extra point kick was low, but Laux recovered and rolling left and then right, found Peyton Pawlaczyk alone in the end zone for the two-pointer to give Evergreen a 22-20 lead.
Almost like a rerun from the previous Archbold possession, Walker, after catching a 14 yard pass for a first down, found the edge, and again from 43 yards away, scored to put the Streaks back on top 26-22 as the try for two pass was batted away by Etue.
On the third play after the kickoff the Vikings found a big play of their own.
Etue found Laux going shallow across the middle, and the senior receiver split the second level and raced 66 yards to put Evergreen back up 28-26 with 6:41 left.
“He made a huge play,” said Amstutz of Laux. “This year I don’t know how many plays like that we made, but tonight we made a few. We established the run to set up the pass, I can’t say anything less regarding our performance, we’re very happy for the guys to go out as winners.”
Walker’s 17 yard run put the ball into Viking territory, but Evergreen stuffed Seth Mayer for a loss and Donnald tipped away a fourth down pass at the 10 to give the Vikings possession with 3:32 left.
Runs of 15 by Carson and 10 and 11 by Etue picked up the first downs needed for the Vikings to run out the clock.
“Our kids could’ve shut down after some of the things that have happened recently and getting knocked out of the playoffs last week,” stated Amstutz. “But they came out here and do what they did and (to) see them go out this way is awesome.”
For the game Evergreen ran for 259 yards and Etue threw for another 256 to break his own school record with 2,541 for the season.
Laux caught 162 of those yards on eight receptions, breaking the single season catch mark with 65.
Archbold, who finished 4-6, were led on the ground by Walker who ran for 154 yards and Sam Petersen with 89 more.
Joe Blystone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org