Crawfordsville needed a win on Friday night.
But more importantly, the Athenian football team led by 10 seniors, wanted to win for an 11th senior teammate they lost in a tragic car accident in January.
A season that was dedicated to Michael Leak came to a head on senior night with an 18-8 win over Frankfort — stopping a 19-game losing streak for Crawfordsville.
“Our kids battled all season, and I couldn’t be more proud and I’m honored to be their coach,” Crawfordsville football coach Kurt Schlicher said. “Those senior kids, they’ve been through a lot and really the whole team has been through a lot. It’s really hard for me to put it into words. You know they lose a teammate last year and they dedicated this season to that boy. And tonight, that’s a big win.”
The Athenians (1-8, 1-6 SAC) had just 95 yards of total offense, but in a game played with a lot of passion, they capitalized on every Hot Dog (2-6, 0-6 SAC) mistake and proved they wanted it more.
Zach Bowman opened the scoring when he fell on the ball in the endzone on a botched snap by Frankfort on a punt to put the Athenians up 8-0 with 5:42 to play in the first quarter.
The Hot Dogs returned the favor to tie the game on a 31-yard touchdown run by Riley Goodnight with 2:09 left in the first.
Crawfordsville didn’t even need to get the ball back to retake the lead as Gavin Kenny returned the kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion made it 16-8 and the Athenians never looked back — adding two points on a late third quarter safety for the only second half points.
“Tonight is a game of mistakes when you play in weather and teams are battling like this,” Schlicher added. “And they made a couple mistakes and we capitalized and caused a couple of those things. When you win a game and your offense doesn’t score, it says a lot about your total team. And that’s what it was tonight, a team victory.”
After the Goodnight touchdown, the Frankfort offense sputtered. The Hot Dogs punted twice and turned it over on downs twice in the first half. In the second half Sam Michael threw two interceptions and Frankfort turned it over on downs in the final moments to put the game on ice for the Athenians.
Frankfort outgained Crawfordsville 177-95, including 139 rushing yards and 93 from Goodnight. Kaden Patton led the Athenians offense with 83 passing yards on a 12-of-22 night.
Aside from the special teams touchdowns, the key was turnovers. Frankfort committed four and Crawfordsville just one.
The win is the first for Crawfordsville since they defeated Frankfort 20-6 in October of 2019. A moment that has been building since they suffered a 26-0 loss to county rival North Montgomery in week 6.
“I think I’m probably most proud of is we get beat by North Montgomery and we were disappointed that night, and yet I feel like we’ve improved as a team,” Schlicher said. “We went to Lebanon, who is very good, but I feel like we got a little bit better. We went to Tri-West, who is really good and I feel like we got better and I think it showed up tonight and that’s why we got the W.”
Senior Austin Motz had two interceptions defensively for Crawfordsville, while fellow seniors Evan Chaney and JaMarion Cummins were flying to the football. Seniors Nickolas Busenbark and Alex Hernandez each played through injuries. But it was one senior who stood out above all.
“Tonight he (Ethan Powell) wore Michael Leak’s jersey and just played exactly like Michael would have played,” Schlicher said of Ethan Powell. “He played every play as hard as he could play.”
It was a team win — but a win that will forever be remembered as the one for Leak.
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