Saturday, October 15, 2011
Sports News

Railers lose heartbreaker in OT, 13-12

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[October 15, 2011]  It's a story that's been told too many times for die-hard Railer football fans in Lincoln for too many years:

The effort was deserving of a better ending.

Friday night's 13-12 overtime loss to Taylorville was heartbreaking for many reasons, not the least of which was that it came on Senior Night.

"The guys wanted to win," said a somber Lincoln coach Andy McDonald. "It's hard. It was a very hard-fought battle, which is what's expected. We just came up a little short there at the end."

The game was tied 6-6 at the end of regulation.

In high school overtime, both teams' offenses take turns, with their possessions starting 10 yards from the goal line, and play continues until one team fails to match or exceed the totals of the other team.

On their first turn, the Tornadoes scored on their first play from scrimmage in overtime. After converting an extra point, the visitors held a 13-6 lead.

The Railers took their turn and found pay dirt when Zac Schleder scampered in from 3 yards out, making the score 13-12.

After failing to execute an extra-point attempt earlier in the game, McDonald and his coaching staff elected to take the gamble of going for a two-point conversion. If the Railers were successful, they would have a heroic win. If they were not, they would be left with sorrow on Senior Night.

On the final play, senior Andy Krusz took the handoff and pushed the pile of players as far as he could, but wound up half a yard short of the end zone.

In a similar situation earlier this season against Springfield Lanphier, Krusz had scored from about the same distance, giving Lincoln a thrilling victory as the final buzzer sounded.

But, unfortunately for the Railers and their fans, it just wasn't meant to be on this night.

McDonald explained the decision to go for the two-point conversion, and the play call, and showed no regret.

"We were all pretty much unanimous, the coaching staff and the players, about going for two," said McDonald. "They were fired up. They had the look in their eye. But we just couldn't get it done.

"I called a play to go to Andy Krusz, who's been a great player for us, a senior who's going to run 110 percent on that. It was a play we'd called many times today and been very successful with it the whole game. But they did something to it and they stopped it. Or at least stopped us from where we needed to be."

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Overshadowed in the loss was a superb effort by the Lincoln defense. Taylorville's only score in regulation came on a trick play in the third quarter, when a running back unloaded a long pass to a receiver who had sneaked past the Railer defense. If not for the execution of the trick play and the overtime score when the ball was placed at the 10-yard line, Lincoln may have pitched a shutout.

"It was a great defensive effort. Guys were flying to the ball and did a great job of wrapping up when they got there. I'm very proud of that," said McDonald. "We had the one breakdown on the halfback pass. But other then that, very proud of the effort out there."

In the aftermath of the loss, McDonald lauded the effort of his team and talked about the bittersweet nature of football.

"The guys played really hard," said McDonald. "Again, the funny thing about football is that a one-play difference makes the difference if whether you're up here, yelling 'rah rah!' and having a great time, or whether you're down in tears and sorrow.

"I think that's another reason all of these guys love to play the game too. Just the emotion of it."

Schleder led Lincoln with 110 yards on 21 attempts and made the overtime touchdown. Senior Garrett Cooper had 107 yards and a touchdown, while Krusz rushed 14 times for 75 yards.

Senior quarterback James Leisinger finished the game 2 for 8 for 27 yards. Logan Armbruster had one catch for 14 yards, while Schleder also added a catch for 13 yards.

The Railers will close their season on Thursday night as they travel to Springfield to take on undefeated and top-ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.


Justin Tierney's Railer football reports

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