ARCOLA — It was Homecoming at Thomas-Bradford Field in Arcola, and Decatur LSA/Decatur Christian/Mount Pulaski needed a win to become playoff eligible.
Arcola led 37-28 when LSA scored with 55.5 seconds left and made the two-point conversion. The onside kick was recovered by the Purple Riders for a thrilling 37-36 victory. The win assures Arcola of a playoff spot at 6-2 overall. The Purple Riders improved to 4-1 in the Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division.
"This team has been through so much adversity and trials, and I just couldn't be more proud of how they respond and how their eyes don't get too big and they just make plays when they need to," said Arcola coach Nick Lindsey.
Lindsey was concerned about LSA's quarterback Mike Fiala and their skill players. His concern proved valid as the Lions came out and took a 22-7 lead with quarterback Mike Fiala throwing for 106 yards passing, including a 65-yard pass to Jalen Jones. Jones also had a rushing touchdown of 62 yards.
The Purple Riders scored 17 unanswered points in the final 8:59 of the first half and extended the run to 24 points taking a 30-22 lead entering the fourth quarter. Arcola took a two-point lead into the locker room on a 34-yard field goal by Michael Garza after a pass interference penalty on the Lions.
"To get the lead going into halftime was huge," said Lindsey. "LSA is a good team and we are beat up and sick and had kids out. We had two freshmen starting on the offensive line - Zach Butler was at center and Mark Truex was at left tackle. I am glad that it happened because that is what our program is about. You never know when your number is going to get called, and they capitalized on their opportunities. We got it done and won and that is all that matters."
Lindsey called a time-out just before the LSA onside kick.
"You practice those situations and you know you might not ever use them," said Lindsey who put more players on the right side, which was where the ball was kicked. "I am glad we practice that and the players made the play when it counted."
Austin Hopkins finished with 38 carries for 205 yards and two touchdowns, while Pedro Gauna had 13 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Arcola started its run on a 10-yard touchdown run by Austin Hopkins, who had 14 carries for 98 yards in the opening quarter and had 21 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns at the half. Diego Perez gave the Purple Riders momentum with a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown just 2:10 after the Hopkins touchdown. Garza added the point after and suddenly Arcola was back to within one, after trailing 8-7. Perez fielded the first Lions punt on the run and went to his right down the Arcola sideline.
The game started in a light rain on a cold night and there were three fumbles in the first two possessions with both teams losing it once.
The Lions were led by Fiala who was 13-for-27 for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Arcola was coming off a 22-9 loss to the No. 7 team in Class 1A, Argenta-Oreana, while LSA beat Sangamon Valley/Tri-City 42-21.
Arcola is to play host to Tri-County Friday in a non-division game, while the Lions, 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the division are to play host to Martinsville.