In a see-saw game played at Metea Valley, the contest boiled down to key fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter by Mustangs defensive back Tamal Kumar — and the toe of kicker Nick Dodson.
Dodson booted a 20-yard field goal at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter to give Metea a 24-22 victory over Plainfield East.
Each team scored twice in the first half. The Bengals took the lead in each of the first two quarters, the first on a 32-yard pass from Jacob Kotopka to Mozel Hargrays — and in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Brennen Rompa.
Metea Valley countered on a 7-yard toss from quarterback Blaise Bell to Blaze Miller, and again on an 8-yard Bell pass to Chase Nelson. The score was knotted at 15 at halftime.
The passing game shown by both squads was inconsistent, but the Mustangs did have an important consistent feature — running back Cameron Wilcox.
Wilcox battered his way for 105 yards on 17 carries in the first half and finished with 177 yards on 34 tries.
“I feel I need to lead the team as a captain, and I know I could have done better,” said Wilcox. “Coach said, ‘Keep on punching, punching and you will get a knockout.’ I felt strong in the second half.”
Dodson kicked a 20-yard field goal midway in the third to give the Mustangs a slim lead, but the Bengals came right back with a 21-yard scoring strike from Kotopka to Adrian Simbulan. Plainfield East led 22-18 after three.
Dodson drilled a 36-yard field goal with 6:45 left in the game to draw Metea within one, and kicked the game-winner with 5:02 remaining after Kumar’s fumble recovery.
“It was a forced fumble by one of our linebackers,” said Kumar. “I was in the right place at the right time and shouldn’t take any credit. I was just there to recover it.”
The Mustangs’ defense stopped Plainfield East twice in the waning minutes to seal the victory.