Daniel Foster could hardly believe his eyes.
After taking a handoff from quarterback Hunter Stocker, he looked up and saw a clear path to the end zone.
“I just took off,” Foster said. “It was beautiful.”
It turned out to be a beautiful ending to a tremendous comeback.
Foster’s 15-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left gave Madison Central a 15-13 victory over Clark County (3-6, 1-2 district) and secured the school’s first district championship in six years. The Indians (5-4, 3-0 district) trailed 13-0 with 8:06 left, but scored on each of their final two possessions to wrap up a third straight victory.
“We kept fighting and we just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them,” Central junior linebacker Tucker Fair said. “We knew if gave our offense a chance they would come through for us and that’s exactly what they did.”
Trailing 13-8 with 2:31 left, the Indians got one last chance and took advantage.
Central put together an 11-play, 85-yard drive that featured two third-down conversions and two remarkable runs by Jamez Chenault, including a 19-yard gain in which he fought off several would-be tacklers.
“He would not go down,” Central coach Bert Browne said of Chenault.
A 7-yard reception by tight end Hunter Allen and then a 9-yard run by Foster gave the Indians a first down on the Clark County 15-yard line.
After a timeout, Foster delivered the game winner.
“Foster hits that hole as fast as anybody, just as fast as Dominique (Hawkins),” Browne said. “He blows through there and I knew he could score. He’s one of the fastest kids on the team.”
The Central defense had to rise to the occasion one last time.
The Cardinals picked up a first down and had the ball on the Central 45-yard line with seven seconds left. Taylor Nunley ended any chance of a Clark County comeback by sacking quarterback Christian Cooke as time expired.
“We played balls to the wall on defense,” Browne said.
Central’s defense had just one major lapse and that allowed Clark County to take a 13-0 lead. Early in the fourth, Conner Shoebrooks got behind the defense and caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from running back/quarterback Pokey Harris.
The Indians answered right back.
Stocker capped a five-play, 60-yard drive with a 28-yard TD pass to Allen. Stocker then also hit Allen on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 13-8.
“I never doubted that we were going to win, even when it was 13-0,” Browne said.
Central’s defense limited Clark County to 290 yards of offense, only 109 of which came in the second half. The Indians also limited Pokey Harris to for just 139 rushing yards and only 16 yards in the second half.
“All that hard work has paid off,” Fair said.
On the opening drive of the game, the Cardinals went 83 yards on 14 plays and took the lead on a 25-yard field goal by Tyler Creteau. Clark County converted three straight third-down attempts and got a 41-yard reception by Darian Skinner during a possession that drained more than nine minutes off the clock.
In the second quarter, Clark County put together another long drive, this time a 15-play, 75-yard march, that resulted in another 25-yard field goal by Creteau that pushed the lead to 6-0 with 3:55 left in the half.
Clark County dominated possession in the opening half. The Cardinals ran 30 of the first 35 offensive plays and had the ball for 17:50 of the first 20:05 of the game.
At halftime, Clark County had an overwhelming advantage in time of possession (18:08 to 5:52) and total yards (181-71).
The Indians had committed only one turnover against district competition, but had two in the first half against Clark County. Stocker was intercepted on Central’s second drive and the junior was picked off again on his team’s final possession of the half.
Central had not allowed a point in the first half to a district opponent this year, but trailed 6-0 against Clark County.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak to Clark County.
Central will have a No. 1 seed when the Class 6A playoffs open in two weeks. The Indians will likely take on Boone County at home in the postseason opener.
“We are not done yet,” Foster said. “We’ve got big plans.”