DU QUOIN — The game lived up to the hype.
With bragging rights and the Mississippi Division title on the line Du Quoin and Nashville, both 8-0, squared off at historic Van Metre Field.
After building a sizable halftime advantage, Du Quoin held on to defeat Nashville 41-35. It wasn’t for lack of trying on the Hornets part. Nashville scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, two Cole Malawy to Isaac Turner scoring passes in the final 5:45.
The last pass was a 29-yarder with just 2:20 remaining in the game. After moving the ball seemingly at will in the first three quarters, Du Quoin struggled offensively in the fourth quarter.
The Indians finally got the play they needed with about 1:29 left when Ethan Zettler raced 28 yards for a first down to the Nashville 34, allowing them to run out the clock.
“I have to give credit to our line,” Zettler said. “Without our line I wouldn’t have been able to bump outside. I would have been killed. After we got that first down I knew we were rallying together again and we had it.
“I couldn’t hold my excitement. Even before I was tackled to the ground I was screaming. I was screaming with excitement. I just knew I had to protect the ball. When I hit the ground I got up cheering.”
The Indians built a 27-7 halftime lead using big plays on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, Du Quoin stymied the Hornets with three interceptions. Ethan Zettler picked off two and Dasani Edward grabbed the other. Two of the three picks led directly to Du Quoin touchdowns.
“That’s kind of been the theme the last two weeks,” said Du Quoin coach Derek Beard. “We’ve been getting big plays out of our defense, forcing turnovers. We talked about that at halftime. We were in position because they turned the ball over.”
After Zettler’s first pick gave the Indians the ball at their own 31, the Indians drove 69 yards, the last 42 covered by an Alex Zimmerman to Kadin Mays pass. Mays got behind the Nashville defense, had to slow to gather in the under-thrown pass, but still outran the Nashville defense into the end zone at 3:18 of the first quarter.
Du Quoin pushed the lead to 14-0 after Justin Aulds’ punt pinned the Indians at their own seven. A Zimmerman to Braeden Pursell pass resulted in a first down before Zettler hauled in a swing pass, turned the corner and raced 80 yards for a touchdown with just 30 seconds left in the quarter.
“Early on, it was tough to run on them, but we felt we could get to the edge,” Beard said. “We felt like we could get some big plays out of the passing game. Alex and the receivers did a good job. That was the difference I think, our speed.”
Nashville cut the lead to 14-7 when Jullian Metcalf’s four-yard run capped a nice drive, but Du Quoin still had more big plays.
Zettler’s second interception put Du Qoin in business at the Nashville 33. The Hornets forced Du Quoin into a fourth and four at the Nashville 11, and it appeared as if the Hornets defense held when the ball was deflected into the aid. However, Wade Roberson gathered the ball in for a 21-7 advantage.
Edward had Du Quoin’s final interception with just over a minute remaining in the half, but that was enough for Zimmerman to find Jacob Green in the end zone for a 13-yard pass.
Zettler finished with 147 yards on 19 carries. Zimmerman complete 12-17 for 203 yards. Nashville’s Metcalf rushed for 97 yards and Malawy threw for 207.
The Indians close their season against Murphysboro next week while Nashville entertains West Frankfort.
On Twitter: @LesWinkeler
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