SIDELL — Option-based football teams put pressure on their quarterbacks to make decisions.
Decisions affecting the Arthur-Lovington football program, however, were made by administrators nearly two years ago. Faced with the option of adding another high school to its co-op, they didn’t pass.
Atwood-Hammond athletes joined the mix in time for the 2012 season. They’ve now helped the cooperative program reach the playoffs two years in a row.
“The co-op saved it,” A-L/A-H coach Dale Schuring said. “We’ve got enough (players) that we can practice and don’t have to throw freshmen and sophomores out there when they’re not ready. We hope we can continue with the success Salt Fork has had up here (with its Catlin and Jamaica co-op).”
The Knights had enough firepower Saturday at Bob Yeazel Field to pull off a 23-19 come-from-behind win in a Class 1A first-round game.
The outcome left both programs with 8-2 records. A-L/A-H will return home to play top-ranked and 10-0 Maroa-Forsyth on Saturday.
A-L/A-H scored the go-ahead touchdown on quarterback Tyler Schuring’s 25-yard run on an option keeper with 10 minutes, 21 seconds left. It was the first lead for the Knights since Jordan Feagin’s 27-yard field goal with 3:35 left in the first half made it 3-0.
Feagin flanked Tyler Schuring on the TD run. Coach Dale Schuring said the play worked because “Tyler showed great patience. He almost came to a dead stop, to make the (defensive) guy make a decision.”
Tyler Schuring was the team’s top rusher with 146 yards. He also passed for 68 yards, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble.
The loss was Salt Fork’s second by no more than four points.
“When you lose by three points and now by four points, it’s tough to swallow,” Storm coach Brian Plotner said. “You’d rather get put down by 21 or 28 points and have no doubts. This is tough.”
The Storm regrouped from the field goal to take a 6-3 lead into intermission. Jacob Hughes hooked up with Seth McLain on a 43-yard scoring strike with 1:52 left in the half.
Salt Fork committed six turnovers. The first was when Tyler Schuring picked off a pass in his end zone after the Storm moved to the 14 on its first possession.
“Our defense has been playing well,” Dale Schuring said. “In the first half, we didn’t take advantage.
Salt Fork increased its lead to 19-10 on a 6-yard Taylor Kirby scoring run at 4:38 of the third quarter.
“We haven’t been in many adverse situations this year, but every time, we’ve responded,” Dale Schuring said. “They had us on the ropes.”
Tyler Schuring directed a nine-play scoring drive after Kirby’s score. It ended with a 20-yard scoring run by Feagin with 23.7 seconds left in the third quarter. Feagin’s extra-point kick created a 19-17 deficit, which was erased on the team’s next possession.
Salt Fork had three more chances. Two ended with interceptions, including one with 47.4 seconds left when Curtis Plank made a pick.
“Curtis is a quality receiver who doesn’t drop things that hit his hands,” Dale Schuring said. “Throwing the ball is not their forte, and into the wind makes it tougher.”
Cole Taylor rushed for 152 yards for the Storm. Teammate Steven Meade had 13 tackles. Logan West led A-L/A-H with 12 stops.