ROSEBURG, Ore. -- In the third quarter, down by only one touchdown, 28-21, it looked as though the South Eugene Axemen would come from behind and upset the favored Roseburg Indians.
But a timely interception by Roseburg stopped the Axemen momentum and the game ended with an Indians victory, 34 - 21.
It was a game of notable mistakes on both sides, but Roseburg made fewer, and that won the game.
With some of his key players out due to injuries, including tight end and linebacker Connor Still, quarterback and defensive back Liam Duncan, running back and linebacker Ian Oakerson, running back and safety Michael Selvin, and offensive and defensive lineman Alex Shapiro, Head Coach Chris Miller led his team onto the Roseburg home turf against stiff odds.
The defense bent but did not break. The offense seemed unable to hold onto the ball. But going into the fourth quarter the Axemen were within striking distance.
Roseburg scored first with 8:13 left in the first quarter, but missed the PAT, making the score 7-0. The Indians scored again with 3:00 left in the first quarter and 7:39 left in the second, running the score up to 20-0.
The Axemen answered with 0:24 left in the half, with a short pass to Lucian Orsinger, and the PAT made the score 20-7 going into halftime.
With 6:31 left in the third period, Roseburg's running back River Sigrest dove into the endzone, and the Indians ran a two-pointer to make the score 28-7.
South Eugene' running back Quinn Cota carried the ball into the endzone with 2:19 left in the third quarter, making it 28-14. At that point, the momentum was clearly in favor of the underdog Axemen. But a timely interception by Roseburg's Travis Dever stopped the Axemen cold.
It rained off and on during the game, making for sloppy play. When the Indians' quarterback fumbled the ball, Axemen defensive lineman Quinton Richardson scooped it up and ran almost 80 yards to score. The game once again seemed within reach for the Axemen.
The Indians answered with a score on a short dive play with 3:59 left in the fourth, but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Roseburg. Less than a minute later Roseburg's quarterback Cody Walker punched it in again, and this time the score stuck, making it 34-21. The PAT was wide.
On the kickoff, the Axemen receiver fumbled the ball and Roseburg recovered, which was followed less than a minute later by Roseburg fumbling the ball with South Eugene recovering.
But the clock ran out and Roseburg held onto the lead, winning the game 34 - 21.
After the game, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Kevin Leonard told his team, "The outcome wasn't what we wanted, but you sent a positive message. I saw the light come on with a few people. That's beautiful. We've got things going. Stay with me. We're going to be okay."
Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Chris Miller wasn't quite as happy, telling his team, "Offensively, you can't more mistakes than you did in the first half. We're just not executing." And the other hand, he pointed out his team has the winning potential. "If we execute," Miller said, "nobody can stop us. We stop ourselves. But we are going to get it right. If we go to work and put in the time, we can win the next four games."
Next week South Eugene plays Grants Pass at home, the Axemen Homecoming game. Kickoff is at 7 pm.