By Greg Gulas
On rivalry weekend, the Springfield Tigers and South Range Raiders prepared all week long so that they could expect the unexpected.
Neither team, however, anticipated a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown as the nail in the other team’s coffin.
Alex Dickey rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his interception with under five minutes to play that sealed the Raiders’ 35-21 victory on Friday.
“I was playing on the outside and at the last second I saw the ball coming my way. I just reacted to the ball and once I had it in my grasp, I was able to get a few blocks and take it all the way,” said Dickey.
“Both teams were well-prepared and it was just a typical Springfield-South Range game where it came down to the end to decide the outcome,” Dickey said.
Nick Russell’s 30-yard run on the Tigers’ opening drive gave Springfield an early 6-0 advantage.
Dickey’s 24-yard touchdown scamper on the Raiders’ first series knotted the score at 6 at the 4:59 mark of the opening stanza.
Russell gave Springfield (5-2, 2-2 ITCL) a 12-6 advantage when he scored his second touchdown, a 39-yard run with time running out in the opening stanza.
Zach Thorpe’s 16-yard run and Cole Krumpak’s placement helped South Range (3-4, 2-2) forge a 13-12 margin, but Tommy Mastran’s 27-yard scoring catch from Russell with two seconds remaining before intermission staked the Tigers to the 19-13 halftime advantage.
“We shot ourselves in the foot tonight with penalties and turnovers and you just can’t do that against a good team like South Range,” said Springfield coach Sean Guerriero.
“It’s never good to start first and 20 or second and 15 and that is what happened to us. Our defense played great and both teams were well-prepared.
“Nick is high quality; an excellent player and we’re going to put the ball in his hands with the hopes that he will make plays. He made some great plays tonight,” Guerriero said.
Dickey’s 13-yard run, his second touchdown of the game, gave the Raiders a 20-19 lead at 7:14 of the third period. When quarterback Ross Stoffer found the end zone from a yard away at the 2:21 mark, South Range built a 27-19 lead.
It was a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
When Dickey was tackled in the end zone at the outset of the final period for a safety, Springfield cut the Raiders’ lead to 27-21.
Two excellent defensive stands by South Range, however, and Dickey’s interception return helped to seal the victory.
“We know that anything can and usually does happen in a rivalry game so this was a very big win for us,” said South Range coach Dan Yeagley.
“Both teams played their hearts out but give credit to Coach Guerriero and his staff because they had an excellent game plan.
“There were plenty of big plays all night,” Yeagley said.
The Tigers had 379 yards of total offense with Russell accounting for 326 of those yards.
The Raiders had 292 yards offensively while Dickey’s 117 ground yards was tops for South Range.