The Crawfordsville and Lebanon football teams entered Friday’s matchup on opposite ends of the Sagamore Conference. The Athenians, after a 2-0 start, were yet to find their first taste of victory in conference play. The Tigers have been unbeaten since a 14-13 loss to Danville in week three. With both teams needing wins for different reasons, Lebanon pulled out the away victory over Crawfordsville, 35-0.
Despite each team’s season momentum entering the game, Crawfordsville and Lebanon battled in a gritty first quarter. The Tigers overcame multiple penalties to produce an opening-drive touchdown on Carson Toole one-yard rush. An ensuing Athenian three-and-out gave the ball back to the Tigers at Lebanon’s own 28. Lebanon produced a methodical drive down to Crawfordsville’s 18-yard line. But the Athenian defense stood tall in the red zone, and on fourth and twelve, Crawfordsville’s Kaden Patton intercepted the fourth-down attempt in the end zone for a touch back. Only three possessions encompassed the entirety of the first quarter, and the score sat 7-0 in favor of Lebanon at the end of one.
“We had a tough one last week against North [Montgomery],” Crawfordsville Head Coach Brad Clark said. “So, our message all week was just to try and execute every down. Be more consistent and develop good habits so that we can have better drives and more success on Friday nights. I thought our guys responded well in practice and I think you saw some of that early here tonight. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Tigers coach Jeff Smock credited the Athenians for how they came out of the gates.
“I think early on, [Crawfordsville] did a good job of controlling the clock,” Lebanon Head Coach Jeff Smock said. “They were able to get some first downs. Defensively, we weren’t able to get off the field.”
In what may have been the biggest play of the game, the Tigers faced a third down and 23 against an aggressive Athenian defense. Landon Fouts dumped a screen pass off to Kaden Lark, who took the ball for 48 yards to the house and put the Tigers ahead 14-0. The score shifted the momentum in favor of Lebanon for the remainder of the contest.
“I felt like we talked all week about playing with discipline,” Smock said. “For us, that’s what that next phase has got to be for us. And in the first half, I didn’t feel like we did a very good job of that. Too many penalties, too many self-inflicted wounds.”
The second half of play was all Tigers. Lebanon’s only two drives in the third quarter led to their final two touchdowns. The first score came on a four-yard pass from Fouts to Arturo De La Rosa Jr. Crawfordsville’s next drive saw Lebanon block the Athenian punt on fourth down, setting up the Tigers’ second score of the quarter on a four-yard rushing touchdown from Brendan Shockley.
With the win, Lebanon (5-2, 4-1 SAC) looks ahead to Southmont (6-1, 4-1 SAC) with a matchup that could determine the Sagamore Conference champion.
“It should be fun,” Smock said. “We can’t control anything else, but we can control if we win next week. At the end of the day, if we win next week and we win the week after, we have at least a share of the conference title. That’s been a goal of ours all season. I expect it to be a heck of a crowd and a heck of an environment next Friday.”
Crawfordsville (2-5, 0-5 SAC) faces Tri-West (5-2, 4-1 SAC) for a senior-night matchup in attempts to get their first conference win.
“This is a senior group that has stuck with the program,” Clark said. “I couldn’t be prouder of those guys. They’re a great group of guys. I feel lucky that I get to coach them. Regardless of the opponent, we have a job to do next week and that’s to play for our seniors. I expect our guys to come out hungry and play for those guys next Friday.”
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