This was not the kind of result Eisenhower was looking for heading into the postseason.
Cameron County spoiled senior night for the Knights on Friday, as the Raiders came away with a victory in a 35-27 upset at Eisenhower High School - in a hard-fought, back-and-forth contest.
The Raiders entered the game with just two wins on the season, and finished in last place in the District 9 AML North. Earlier this season they fell to Sheffield, 27-0.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Carrying the load
Eisenhower running back Alex Johnson stiff-arms a Cameron County defender during Friday nights game at Eisenhower High School. Johnson rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown, and also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, but the Knights fell, 35-27.
This night, the Knights (7-3) ran 20 more plays than the Raiders (3-7), and also outgained them in total yards, 357-242, but costly turnovers at key moments would come back to haunt them.
Raiders running back Eric Spehalski got the scoring started, when he ran into the end zone from 15 yards out with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Eisenhower had an immediate response, as Alex Johnson found a hole on the ensuing kickoff and raced 85 yards into the end zone to tie the game at seven.
After Bryce Garris was able to pick off Raiders quarterback Tucker Britton midway through the second quarter, Ike took advantage as Rob Wilston found Tre Frank in the end zone with 4:43 remaining. The Knights took a 13-7 lead into halftime.
The Knights received the opening kickoff to start the second half and nearly increased their lead, driving down the field to inside the Raiders' 10-yard line. But Wilston's pass intended for Frank in the end zone was picked off.
Cameron County's offense stormed back to life at that point. Britton ran into the end zone from 10 yards out near the end of the third quarter, and Tony Olivett broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run four minutes into the fourth. Britton ran in the two-point conversion, giving the Raiders a 22-13 lead with just under eight minutes remaining.
Ike once again advanced all the way down to Cameron County's 10-yard line, but a Wilston pass was deflected and fell into the hands of Rusty Setzer, who returned it 103 yards, end zone-to-end zone, putting the game seemingly out of reach.
There was no quit in the Knights, however, as they drove the length of the field in two minutes, and Wilston hit Jarrett Johnson with a three-yard passing touchdown. Alex Johnson converted the two-point conversion, making the score 29-21.
The Knights defense did its job, forcing the Raiders to go three-and-out. Eisenhower's offense again took charge, moving down the field quickly and efficiently before Johnson ran into the end zone from two yards out with just 16 seconds remaining. Eisenhower attempted another two-point conversion, this one to tie the game, but Johnson was stopped for no gain.
Eisenhower recovered an onside kick, but Setzer would again pick off Wilston, returning this one 55 yards for his second pick-six, and officially sealing a victory for the Raiders.
"We just missed way too many opportunities," said Eisenhower coach Jim Penley. "That won't work next week. We've got to play a lot sharper to beat Sharpsville. We left two or three touchdowns sitting out there. We can't do that; not in the playoffs. My hope is that getting pushed will get us to where we need to be."
Johnson finished with 139 yards on the ground for the Knights. Wilston finished 20-of-31 with 214 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Jarrett Johnson finished with 83 receiving yards, and Logan Bellardo added 73.
Britton passed for 145 yards and ran for 44 for Cameron County. Olivett finished with 52 rushing yards.
Eisenhower will take on Sharpsville in its playoff opener next Friday at Corry's Sheen Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Cameron Co-Eisenhower Stats
Cameron Co70721 -35
Mia-Eric Spehalski 15 yard pass from Tucker Britton, Jack Karsten kick, 3:17.
Ike-Alex Johnson 85 yard kickoff return, Grant Venman kick, 3:02.
Ike-Tre Frank 3 yard pass from Rob Wilston, kick no good, 4:43.
Cam-Britton 10 yard run, Karsten kick, 2:32.
Cam-Tony Olivett 46 yard run, Britton 2 point run, 7:46.
Cam-Rusty Setzer 103 yard interception return, Karsten kick, 5:06.
Ike-Jarrett Johnson three yard pass from Wilston, Johnson 2-point run, 3:09.
Ike-Johnson 2 yard run, 2-point run failed, :16.
Cam-Setzer 55 yard interception return, kick no good :05.
RUSHING-Camercon County-Olivett, 6-52, TD, Britton, 15-44, TD, Spehalski, 1-0, Cameron Horning, 1-1. Ike-Johnson, 24-139, TD, Wilston, 6-5, Bryce Garris, 1-2, Logan Bellardo, 1-(-3)
PASSING-Camercon County-Britton, 11-22, 1 TD, 1INT. Ike-Wilston, 20-32, 2 TD, 3 INT.
RECEIVING-Cameron County-Spehalski, 4-77, TD, Jordan Causer, 3-34, Olivett, 2-19, Horning, 2-15. Ike-Johnson, 7-83, Bellardo, 4-73, Garris, 1-32, Tre Frank, 2-12, TD, Johnson, 5-5, Louie Head, 1-9.