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Sandwich edges Plano in ‘War on 34’

Sandwich's P.J. Crotty (8) celebrates touchdown with teammates JasMealer (51) Dallas Schroeder during Friday's game against Plano. | Jeff Cagle~For

Sandwich's P.J. Crotty (8) celebrates a touchdown with teammates Jason Mealer (51) and Dallas Schroeder during Friday's game against Plano. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 8, 2011 1:49AM

SANDWICH — It was nail-bitin’ time again for Sandwich coach Dusty Behringer.

After coming up on the short end of tight games the previous two weeks, his Indians had to recover an onside kick in the final minute Friday to hold off arch-rival Plano 23-22 in the annual Interstate Eight Conference battle of Route 34 neighbors.

“A one-point win is so much better,” Behringer said. “We’re not a bad football team.”

That was obvious after Sandwich survived two big special teams plays that almost brought the visitors back. Three big defensive stands, a punishing ground game that accounted for 267 yards and a surprisingly efficient passing game helped lift the Indians to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the I8 Large. Plano falls to 5-2, 3-2.

Sandwich forced the visitors to turn the ball over on downs twice near midfield in the first half and once at the Indians’ 1-yard line with 2:26 left in the game.

The home team held a 23-14 lead courtesy of 39- and 1-yard scoring runs by P.J. Crotty (12 carries, 99 yards), a 28-yard field goal by Matthew Saitta as time ran out in the first half and a 14-yard scoring pass from QB Derrick Risley to tailback Dallas Schroeder. At that point, the game seemed well in hand.

Schroeder, who also plays linebacker, came up with key plays on two of those defensive stops.

“Dallas is a big-time hammer that we have,” said Behringer. “He had to deal with an injury last week and didn’t play defense (in a one-point loss to Manteno). I know that was killing him but we have a long road ahead of us.”

Schroeder met Plano running back Joseph Jones in the backfield for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the Reaper 42 in the first quarter. Jones, who broke a bone in his hand playing Coal City, returned to action after a two-week layoff and rushed 16 times for 81 yards.

Schroeder then led the charge on the critical fourth-quarter stop, keeping 6-foot-4, 220-pound Plano quarterback Trevor Rea from sneaking into the endzone from the 1.

“I knew they were gonna sneak it. I saw the A gap open so I just shot it and met him at the line,” said the 6-1, 210-pound Schroeder.

Plano’s defense then came up with a stand of its own, forcing a Sandwich punt from its endzone.

Devin Haws fielded it at the 36 and returned it 34 yards to the 2. Fullback Alan Vega ran a dive play and bounced it outside, going for the score with 1:08 left. Plano faked the extra point kick and made the two-point conversion on a pass from holder Devin Ambrose to a wide-open Kelby Gann.

Earlier in the game, Ambrose returned a kick 87 yards for a score after Crotty’s second score that was set up by a 32-yard Risley-to-Crotty pass completion.

Sandwich’s Cody Davis fell on Rilando Nunez’s bouncing kick to seal the verdict.

“One-point game, you wouldn’t expect a whole lot different from these two teams,” said Plano coach Jim Green. “We saw that they gave up a couple (big returns) against Peotone and our special teams did a nice job. Haws made a nice play to the other side of the field on the punt that set up that score and I thought Ambrose’s return was big to get us back in the game.

“We didn’t tackle too well tonight, though.”

Sandwich fullback Spencer Carlson (24 carries, 140 yards) keyed the rushing attack.

“He ran hard and he’s not a real big kid,” Green said of the 5-9, 170-pounder. “He kept his feet going.”

Risley, who thought he had thrown only 15 passes all season entering the game, was 2-for-3 for 61 yards. His 14-yarder to Schroeder with 6:31 left in the fourth proved to be the winning score.

“A great fake by the fullback (Carlson) and all the linebacker bit on it and ran in,” said Schroeder. “I had a good route and my quarterback made a great pass for me to the 5-yard line and I ran it in for the touchdown.”

Sandwich finished with a 328-189 edge in total yards.

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