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Mercer County rally sinks Clippers in quarterfinals

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 13th, 2012

Amboy/LaMoille's Jackson Sorrells goes airborne as he tries to gain extra yardage while in the grasp of a pair of Mercer County defenders on Nov. 10 at the AHS field. (News photo)

AMBOY - When Tyson Powers hit a wide open Damon Quest with a two-point conversion pass out of a one-point formation to give Amboy/LaMoille a one-point lead with under eight minutes to play in the game, a sudden hush fell over an otherwise raucous Aledo (Mercer County) crowd.

With its first loss of the season staring Mercer County directly in the face, the overflow Golden Eagle faithful soon had reason to cheer again, and this time it was the Clipper crowd that watched in stunned silence.

Backed up to their own 13-yard line, Golden Eagle quarterback Tanner Matlick engineered what proved to be a game-winning 87-yard drive that allowed Mercer County to escape with a 33-21 win over Amboy/LaMoille in a Class 2A quarterfinal round playoff game on Nov. 10 at the AHS field.

The win propelled the state's top-ranked Golden Eagles (12-0) into a home semifinal match-up with Clifton (Central) this Saturday at 2:30 p.m., while the Clippers saw their season come to a close with a 9-3 mark.

After a Mercer County touchdown and extra point broke a 13-13 tie midway through the third quarter, the Clippers responded with a 19-play, 67-yard drive to get into the end zone. But finishing off the final yard wasn't easy. With a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Clipper fullback Jackson Sorrells was thrown for a 3-yard loss, and then Amboy/LaMoille was whistled for an illegal procedure penalty that moved the ball back to the 9. Powers got 4 of those yards back on a quarterback keeper, then on third down from the 5, Powers hooked up with a diving Jordan Ernst in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard TD strike to pull the Clippers to within one.

Lining up for an extra-point kick that would tie the game, Powers emerged out of his holder's stance as Quest snuck past Mercer County defenders and was all alone to gather in Powers' two-point throw to give Amboy/LaMoille a 21-20 lead with 7:28 left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Mercer County was called for a penalty and its possession began on the 13-yard line. Matlick connected on three passes to move the ball to the 46, then a short pass to tight end Devin Morford turned into a 54-yard footrace to the end zone that Morford won to give the Golden Eagles the lead with 4:23 to play. Mercer County went for two on the conversion, but Matlick's pass was incomplete and the Clippers still had a chance.

Starting at their own 31, a couple of Clipper runs went nowhere, which forced Amboy/LaMoille to go to the passing game as time was winding down. But a Powers offering in the flat was tipped and eventually corralled by Mercer County's Austin Rooth, who ran it back 47 yards for a score to wrap up the victory for the Golden Eagles.

Mercer County's Logan Snyder picked off another Powers pass and returned it to the Clipper 32 with under two minutes to play.

The Clippers, who played without injured (ankle) fullback/linebacker Bailey Appleman, got an early break in the game when Mercer County fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and Amboy/LaMoille's Drew Fordham pounced on it at the 13. Spencer Johnson ran for 11 yards down to the 2, where Cooper Nelson culminated the drive at the 8:37 mark of the opening stanza. Canaan Ross kicked the extra point.

Mercer County took the ensuing possession and marched into the Clipper red zone, but the Golden Eagles' long drive came up empty when a potential touchdown pass from Matlick to Tyson Nylin was ruled out of bounds.

The Clippers took over at their own 4-yard line, but were quickly forced to punt and Mercer County got the ball back in good field position at the A/L 45. Two plays later, Zach Nelson ripped off a 36-yard bolt to the end zone, followed by a Teryima Manta kick to tie the game at 7-7 with 10:20 left in the first half.

Another Amboy/LaMoille punt gave Mercer County good field position once again at its own 46, and the Golden Eagles were able to cover the 54 yards, capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Matlick. Manta's extra-point kick was wide left.

The Clippers tied the game before halftime when a 51-yard pass from Powers to Taylor Ikens set up a 2-yard TD run by Johnson. The PAT kick was blocked.

The Clippers' first drive of the second half resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Mercer County's Nylin. The turnover eventually led to a 12-yard touchdown run by Jesse Snyder, followed by an extra-point kick by Manta to give Mercer County a 20-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

The Clippers finished with 280 total yards compared to 346 for Mercer County. Cooper Nelson rushed 14 times for 52 yards, Johnson had 16 carries for 66 yards and Sorrells gained 46 yards on 10 attempts. Powers completed 6 of 8 passes for 98 yards, while Matlick was 12 of 18 for 206 yards.

Defensively, Ikens had 11 solo tackles and 14 assists, while Jason Bontz added five solos and five assists.

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