HOLLAND – Rallying after being down 11 points in the fourth quarter, Van Buren running back Nick Devore took a sweep on fourth-and-goal at the Delta one yard line for a touchdown on the final play of the game to lead the Black Knights past the Panthers, 29-28, in the Division VI regional semifinal at Holland Springfield Community Stadium Saturday night.
It was the Black Knights first lead of the game.
“I feel so bad for these seniors,” said Delta coach Jeff Wolford on the loss. “Things just didn’t work out. They made the last play and we didn’t.”
Van Buren trimmed the Delta lead to 21-17 at the half on Devore’s two-yard TD run on second and goal with 14 seconds left before the break. This came after Delta added to their lead on the possession before.
Panther running back Bailey Storeholder took a screen pass for 11 yards to their own 44 yard line, then followed with a 56 yard TD run on the next play which made it 21-10 after an Evan Vasquez extra point.
The Panthers took 6:31 off the clock on the opening possession of the third quarter, alternating carries between Storeholder, Jesse Beverly and Dylan Rogers to put the ball on the Van Buren four.
A block in the back penalty called against Delta on second-and-goal put the ball back on the 18, but Storeholder took a sweep around the right end for a TD, increasing their advantage to 28-17 with 5:29 remaining in the third.
After picking up a first down on quarterback Noah Parsons’ sneak on third-and-one, the Panther’s first drive of the fourth quarter stalled at their own 40 and they were forced to kick it away. However, the punt was partially blocked by the Knights, giving Van Buren the ball at midfield with 6:40 to go in the game.
“It gave them momentum,” said Wolford of the punt block. “We just needed one first down at the end and we just didn’t get it.”
Van Buren signal caller Riley Adolph scrambled for four yards on the first play of the drive, then Devore picked up 10 yards down to the Delta 36, and Adolph tossed a jump ball in the end zone to Braxton Fasone who hauled it in for the TD with 6:05 remaining.
The two-point try by the Knights was no good and the Delta lead was five, 28-23.
The Panthers went three-and-out and Van Buren retained possession from their own 35.
Devore kick started the Van Buren drive with a 19 yard burst on the first play to move the ball inside Panther territory at the 46. They later converted a third-and-four when Adolph found Marcus Brand on a slant down to the 15 yard line with 1:33 remaining.
The very next play, Brand hauled in a pass near the sideline to make it first and goal at the two. After Devore could not get in on three straight tries, an offsides call on Delta moved the ball half the distance to the goal for the fourth down attempt.
The Knights called Devore’s number again, and with his feet nearing the sideline, he reached the ball past the pylon for the game-winning score.
On a close call, the officials said that Devore made it to the end zone prior to his foot stepping out.
The Panthers scored first as with 3:51 left in the first quarter, Storeholder ran around the right end 32 yards for a score. They then led 14-0 at the 8:48 mark of the second period on Beverly’s five-yard run.
Van Buren, however, responded when Tyler Saltzman reeled in a pass from 12 yards out with 7:12 until half, making it 14-7. They also added a 21 yard field goal from Thomas Piccirillo with just under four remaining in the quarter.
The Panthers finish the season at 7-5 overall.
“These guys have nothing to be ashamed of. They played so well through so much adversity,” concluded Wolford.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010