CARSON CITY — On a special night, the Carson City-Crystal Eagles put together a special football performance.
The Eagles, celebrating “Salute our Soldiers” night, scored three times — twice after trailing 13-12 — to defeat the Vestaburg Wolverines 28-13 at Community Field on Friday night.
Playing each other for the first time since 1986, the Eagles (3-1, 1-0) handed the Wolverines their first loss of the season, while reaching the halfway mark to guarantee a postseason birth.
“It is so exciting, especially on such a special night,” Eagles coach Jason Gray said. “We were really focused all week on not losing our focus on what this game meant. We had our ‘Salute our Soldiers’ event, we had a huge turnout, but our focus was the football game, too.”
The defenses dominated the first three quarters. All but six of the game’s 41 points were scored in the final 12:03 minutes of the game.
“We had to dig deep into our playbook, but we made one too many mistakes,” Vestaburg coach Dan Ryckman said. “We had them, they had us, but our mistakes ended up hurting us in the end.”
Vestaburg’s (3-1, 0-1) first crucial mistake came of an Eagles’ punt. Punting from the 50-yard line, the Wolverines were called for running into the kicker. The five-yard penalty — Vestaburg’s only penalty of the night — was enough for a first down.
The penalty kept the drive going, which led to a 19-yard touchdown run by Arron Haines and a 20-13 Eagles’ advantage.
The second mistake resulted in a game-sealing touchdown by Taylor Carter. On Vestaburg’s first play after the touchdown, Carter returned a interception 35 yards for the score.
“Our defense won us this game tonight with two huge plays that were interceptions, one for a touchdown,” Gray said. “Taylor Carter is exactly what you want as a student athlete. He is a 4.0 (GPA) student and comes to practice. I’m very happy for him and the rest of the team.”
Carter said he did exactly what he was supposed to do.
“I read the two (inside) wide receiver and he did a wheel route, which I’m supposed to jump,” he said. “I read the ball and came up and made the play. It felt great to help seal it up and get the win for my team.”
Carson City-Crystal opened the scoring on its first possession of the second half. Junior Robert Failing scored on a 50-yard touchdown run to make the score 6-0.
A switch to the spread offense generated scoring and momentum for the Wolverines.
“They are a little bit bigger than us,” Ryckman said. “We couldn’t outmuscle them, so we figured we would put our people in space. I think that went well for us.”
The Eagles continued to battle and ultimately wore the Wolverines down.
“I think we wore them down a little bit physically,” Gray said. “We got simpler at halftime. That was our only adjustment. Let’s just do what we do well. Line up and play football and that’s what we did.”
“This was a game between two pretty good football teams,” Ryckman said. “I’m pretty proud of how our boys played. Carson played a good game, too. You hate to have someone lose a game like this.”
The Eagles have won three games for the first time since 2010. That was the team’s only three wins of the season, though. Gray called the win a signature win for the Eagles.
“It’s huge. We knew this was a pivotal game for us,” Gray said. “Coleman, next week, is a very good football team. We knew if we lost this it would be very tough for us to get into the playoffs. This changes the direction for us for the rest of the season.”
Failing finished the game with 100 yards rushing on 14 carries. Will Beedy ran hard for 65 yards. Garner Cusack was 2-for-3 for 44 yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles outrushed the Wolverines 216 yards to 104.
Vestaburg’s Austin Myers was 8-for-18 for 93 yards. He passed for a touchdown and threw two interceptions. Myers rushed for 47 yards.
Friday’s game was played in honor of current military members and veterans. Both teams wore camouflage uniforms and both communities came together to “Salute our Soldiers.”
“This was our way to pay honor to those people,” Gray said. “Before the opening kickoff it was about paying respect to the people that give us the right to play football games. Without our military we are not playing a football game right now.”
The Eagles travels to Coleman next week, while Vestaburg is at Ashley.