BY WILL WILLEMS – SPORTS EDITOR
INDIANAPOLIS — It wasn’t a perfect game for the Western Boone football team Saturday afternoon against Tri-West at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But despite four turnovers, including three in their own territory, the Stars found themselves with a chance, down 3 and 60 yards from the endzone with 1:40 left in the game.
They made the most of the chance. Nathanial Bye found Hayden Maddox on a fade route with 20 seconds left for the go-ahead score, and the Stars topped the defending 3A state champs 38-35.
“This is huge for our program,” Western Boone head coach Justin Pelley said. “We have been right with these guys the last three years and haven’t been able to get over the hump. Our guys are believing what we are telling them as a coaching staff and this is huge for our kids and they deserve it.”
The Stars found themselves down nine with 5:11 left in the game after a five-yard touchdown pass by Tri-West.
But the Stars marched 69 yards in 1:59, scoring on a 1-yard sneak by Bye. The twopoint conversion was no good, but the Stars were within a score.
Needing a big stop, the WeBo defense delivered. After two short rushes, the Bruins faced a third-and-seven and dropped back to pass, but quarterback Jake Hill was sacked by Dylan Kortman for a loss of eight yards and forced the Bruins to punt.
The Stars got the ball with 1:40 left at their own 40. The message was simple, Bye said.
“Let’s go win this thing,” Bye said the message was. “We have enough confidence in our team that we knew we were going to win. We just had to keep fighting until the end.”
After a penalty negated a big run on first down, the Stars started to march. Bye connected with Kaleb McCloskey for a 17-yard gain, plus a 15-yard penalty for a late hit on Tri-West moved the ball to the Bruin 32.
Bye scrambled for six yards on the next play, then found McCloskey for seven yards for a first down with 38 seconds left.
After an incomplete pass, Bye scrambled for five yards to the 14 with 26 seconds left. On the next play, the Stars had Maddox 1-on-1 by himself and Bye threw a perfect pass for a touchdown. For Maddox, it was just his second catch of the year — the first being a touchdown earlier in the game.
“That is 100 percent a credit to him,” Bye said. “That was amazing. For him to come in,fill those shoes and be able to make the right call and make the catch — it was just great plays by him. It was beautiful.”
The Stars needed one last stop and got it. Tri-West got a 20-yard pass against the Stars prevent defense to get to the WeBo 42 with 5 seconds left, But a last-ditch Hail Mary was thrown over everyone’s head and the Stars could celebrate.
Pelley said the win says a lot about the make-up of the Stars.
“I hope that says a lot and I am really proud of them,” Pelley said. “Games go up and down. We always talk about not getting rattled and playing the next play. Our defense bailed us out a couple times today and our offense can make plays too, we just turned it over too many times today.”
It was a slow start for the Stars.
Bye was intercepted on the first series of the game, and the Bruins scored on the very next play to take a 7-0 lead.
On the very next play, the Stars’ Logan Marsh fumbled trying to fight for extra yards and gave the Bruins the ball at the Star 33. This time, the defense came through as Maddox intercepted Hill in the endzone to keep the deficit at 7.
“He is a great athlete,” Pelley said of Maddox. “He just started playing for us last year and was in and out with injuries and we didn’t know where to play him. He is still learning and once he gets something, he gets it. We have to go through some growing pains with him, but he came through huge tonight.”
The Stars took advantage of their momentum, going 80 yards in 12 plays, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Bye to Mc-Closkey.
After the teams traded punts, Tri-West took the lead on a 9-yard run by Wes Cook, only to see Western Boone respond with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bye to Mc-Closkey.
The Bruins answered with a 58-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-10 to take a 7-point lead. WeBo went three-andout, and the Bruins marched all the way down to the Western Boone 2 yard line in the final seconds of the half, but Cook was stuffed on the 1-yard line as time expired.
Cook, who came in averaging nearly 100 yards a game and 9.0 yards a carry, was held to 68 on 23 carries (2.7 a carry).
“We planned for that,” Pelley said.”We wanted to shut him down and that is why they were able to get a couple of things over the top on us. I’m not sure he is 100 percent healthy either, just watching him move. He is an outstanding player and a heck of an athlete and we have had our hands full with him before.”
The Stars got a stop on the opening drive of the second- half, but Bye fumbled on the WeBo 22 two plays into the next drive, and Tri-West capitalized on the short field with a 2-yard run by Cook to take a 28-14 lead.
After a long kick return gave the Stars the ball at midfield on the ensuing kickoff, they scored on a 38-yard pass from Bye to Maddox, but a missed extra point made the score 28-20.
The Stars kept the momentum when they got an onside kick, but Bye was intercepted in the endzone on third-andlong to end the drive. Tri-West returned the favor when Hill was intercepted by Jack Gilliam to end the ensuing drive.
Western Boone cut into the lead nine plays later when Bye and McCloskey connected for the third time in the game, but the two-point try was no good to make it 28-27 Tri-West. The Bruins scored on the next drive to set-up the crazy final minutes.
Bye finished the game 19 of 33 for 267 yards and five touchdown passes. He rushed for 35 yards and another score. He was named game MVP.
McCloskey had eight catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Mc-Mann had three catches for 72 yards and Maddox had two for 52.
Zach Belcher and Logan Marsh rushed for 54 and 52 yards respectively.
Evan Bayles led the defense with 14 tackles (nine solo). Marsh had 11 (eight solo), while Ryan Solomon and Mc-Mann had seven each.
The Stars face Frankfort next week.
Pelley said the Stars will look to carry the momentum from the win into the meeting with the Hot Dogs.
“The morale of our team is high,” Pelley said. “We knew we could beat these guys. We just had to prove it, and we did that tonight.”
THE STARS’ RYAN SOLOMON, left, and Evan Bayles converge on Tri-West running back Wes Cook.
Photos by Will Willems | The Lebanon Reporter
WESTERN BOONE’S NATHANIAL BYE fights for the ball with Tri-West’s Derek Lucas in the second half Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
WESTERN BOONE’S ZACH MCMANN out-runs Tri-West defenders for a long gain on Saturday.