HARRISBURG — Herrin won its seventh straight contest and ended any chances Harrisburg had at making consecutive playoff appearances with a 35-21 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
The Tigers raced out to a 14-0 lead just over three minutes into the contest, but had to recover two onside kicks late in the game to secure the win.
“We knew their backs were against the wall and they had to win to have a chance at the playoffs,” said Herrin coach Jason Karnes. “We jumped out to a quick start. I thought we got a little complacent, and they did some things different to us in the passing game.”
Herrin jumped out to a 28-7 lead after Drew Merrill’s second touchdown of the night late in the first half.
Harrisburg fullback Jordan Bartok accounted for all three of the Bulldog scores, and his pair of fourth quarter touchdowns brought his club to within 28-21 with 3:29 to play.
Herrin’s Jacob Hartline iced the game with a 42-yard score with a little over a minute to play only to pick off a pass on defense seconds later.
Harrisburg quarterback Isaiah Saulsberry completed six passes for 127 yards. Jordan Gould hauled in three passes for 83 yards.
Matt Upchurch ran 23 times for 102 yards in the loss.
“Our pass rush was good, our secondary coverage overall was pretty good, it just keeps coming down to the same old thing,” said Harrisburg coach Al Way. “We just keep doing things to beat ourselves.”
Merrill finished with 95 yards on nine carries for the Tigers (7-1, 5-0).
Herrin has now won four straight meetings in its series with Harrisburg. The Tigers will host Breese Central next week. Harrisburg will welcome Carbondale to close the year.
Harrisburg (3-5, 2-3) will miss out on the postseason for just the sixth time in 25 seasons under Way. The Bulldogs went 7-3 last year and lost in the opening round of the postseason. The last Harrisburg playoff win came in 2012 when the team reached the 4A semifinals.
Including this year, Herrin has made the playoffs in 10 of 11 years under Karnes.