Going into Friday’s matchup between Sycamore and Harpeth, wins were few and far between for both squads.
With a combined 0-8 record in the past eight games and a 27-point average margin of defeat, a win was necessary for either team to have legitimate hopes for the postseason.
On homecoming night, Sycamore proved to be the better team, defeating its six-loss Interstate 40 rival, 24-13.
From the pregame warm-ups, Sycamore appeared to possess the advantage exclusively based on energy. The excitement wasn’t expected after a 2-4 start to the season. Head coach Justin Robison motivated his players before kickoff.
“[Motivation] was simple,” Robison said. “They needed to win; they wanted to win. We’ve got goals on our board we are trying to hit right now, and they knew that this was the first step.”
The first step Friday night came from senior tailback Tyler Niebel, who converted a fourth and 2 deep in Harpeth territory, then ran up the gut from 24 yards out for a touchdown to put the War Eagles on the board. The senior later commented on his team’s performance against the Indians.
“It feels amazing to bounce back from a very tough loss on the road, and it feels great to get a big region win against our rival,” Niebel said.
The Indians responded to Niebel’s score with one of their own, a quarterback keeper from 1 yard out via senior Luke Gossett. Gossett played the second half in its entirety in place of starter Thomas Sloan due to injury.
After the Harpeth score to knot the game at 7-7, Sycamore’s defense came into its own and shut down the Indians’ offense for the next three quarters. High snaps were a problem all evening for Harpeth, with its second drive almost resulting in a safety due to snaps over the heads of both Sloan and Gossett. After a short Harpeth punt, Niebel found his way across the goal line for his second score of the night.
Sycamore’s defense put the foot on the gas near the end of the second half, halting Harpeth’s offense in the red zone and forcing a missed kick by the Indians, which resulted in a touchdown lead for Sycamore at halftime.
Head coach Doug Loope started to take chances to start the third quarter, as the special teams unit for the Indians attempted an onside kick, which was recovered by Mason Green of the War Eagles. Loope also kept the offense on the field multiple times in the second half for fourth-down conversions, which succeeded once.
Sycamore continuously kept the ball inside throughout the final two frames, as Eli Pallares found the end zone at the end of the third. Sycamore extended its lead by three touchdowns late in the fourth, as kicker Antonio Jardiñez’s kick was true from 10 yards out.
Harpeth’s offense showed signs of life after the kick, and with three minutes to play, Gossett orchestrated the best drive of the night for the Indians, which ended in the senior’s second touchdown of the night, trimming the deficit to 24-13.
“I knew I had to go out there and lead our guys, because it was our last shot to get into the playoffs and continue our season,” Gossett said.
Harpeth will miss the playoffs for the third-straight season under Doug Loope and will play at home against Fairview on Friday. Sycamore improved to 3-4, winning four of the last five against the Indians, and hopes for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as it prepares to play host to Stratford on Friday.