NEW PARIS — The football game between Tri-Village and National Trail was full of surprises, bizarre plays, and if anything, it was very entertaining — but in the end the Blazers came out on top, 35-34, in a Cross County Conference game on Friday, Sept. 22.
In the first quarter TV lined up for fourth down on Trail’s 25-yard line with 10 yards to go, and quarterback Noah Burns tossed a ball into the corner of the end zone where two Patriot receivers, Austin Bruner and Christian Ricker, went up to catch it. Both had the ball in their hands and nearly dropped it before Bruner yielded to Ricker, who then secured the ball, just before falling out of bounds for the score and at 3:45 TV led 7-0.
TV once again was looking at a fourth down play on its own 30-yard line and needing just a yard the Patriots, came up short turning the ball over to Trail.
On the very first play of the second quarter Zack Woodall hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch to tie the game at 7-7.
National Trail (2-3 overall, 1-2 CCC) took a page out of TV’s playbook and on fourth down went for it on the 23-yard line. Angel Garabito took a pitch and then found a seam, taking it to the house for the TD. The extra point by Colton Toms was good, and the Blazers led 14-7.
After a Patriot punt the Blazers were on the move, only to be stopped when Trey Frech intercepted a pass. Three plays later TV scored on a Burns toss in the flat to Jared Buckley, who did the rest and went 23 yards. The extra point kick by Jacob Shaffer tied the game again at 14.
Tri-Village then used the element of surprise with an onside kick the Patriots recovered at midfield, and they didn’t waste the opportunity. Just a few plays later Buckley rumbled in from 11-yards out, but the extra point was low and blocked, and the Patriots led 20-14 at 3:20.
Tri-Village stopped the next Blazer drive, forced a punt and just when it felt like the momentum was shifting, things changed. Trail stopped the Patriots deep in their territory, forcing a return punt and got the ball back with a short field and just under a minute left in the half.
Moments later Peyton Lane ran it in from 2 yards out, and the Blazers went into the locker room up 21-20. Momentum had shifted their way.
The start of the second half was bizarre to say the least — on three consecutive plays the ball was fumbled, twice by Tri-Village and once by National Trail.
On the fourth play of the second half, Jacob Heck on the counter play cut back against the grain and ran it in from 53 yards out to put Trail up 28-20.
The Blazers, looking to add to the lead, tried to reach the ball over the goal line but the ball fell out before breaking the plane and was recovered to by the Patriots’ Camren Munchel, his second fumble recovery on the night.
Tri-Village look like it had the answer on a 59-yard touchdown catch by Ricker, but for the second time on the night it was called back for a holding call, and the Patriots had dug a deep hole, punting back to Trail.
Heck score again off the counter run, this time from 19 yards away, giving National Trail a 35-20 lead with 2:32 to go in the third quarter.
National Trail was on the move again and it looked like the Blazers were going to run away with the game, but TV came up with a big stop on its own 26-yard line.
The Patriots used a little trickery on the first play as Tyler Cheeseman took the handoff and then handed it to Bruner on what looked like a reverse — but this time Bruner pulled up and connected over the middle to a wide-open Ricker, who raced 74 yards for a quick strike score that stunned the Blazers.
The two-point conversion was stopped inches from the goal line as the Patriots narrowed the lead to 35-26 with 9:46 to go in the fourth quarter.
Trail moved the ball on the next possession but Tri-Village stiffened, forcing a punt.
In just five plays the Patriots were on the doorstep, and Buckley finished it from 1 yard out.
Burns then rolled to his right and tossed a short pass to Buckley for the two-point conversion to make the score 35-34 at 4:58 to go in the fourth quarter.
By this time no one could be certain how the game was going to end, but NT was determined to milk the clock as best it could. With just a minute to play the Blazers had to kick it back to the Patriots.
Buckley fielded the punt around the 10-yard line, took off to his left and ran into a wall. He changed directions, going across the field to the right then moving up field and again had to change direction and found a seam running it all the way to the Trail 40-yard line before being ran out of bounds.
All that excitement was once again negated by a block in the back and TV would have to start from its own 10-yard line with under a minute to play.
The Patriots attempted a pass over the middle which was intercepted, putting an end to any climactic finish for the visitors and preserved the win for National Trail.
The Blazers will travel to Tri-County North (3-2, 2-1 CCC) on Friday, Sept. 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.