Saturday, September 17th, 2011
By Randy Bruns
Indians edge Cardinals with big plays
  NEW BREMEN - It was a battle of big plays on Friday night at Cardinals Stadium, and as it often does, the team that made the last one came away with the win.
The Fort Recovery Indians and New Bremen Cardinals traded punches throughout this wild barnburner, but the Indians threw the last haymaker to win a 34-33 decision.
It was a rocky beginning for the hosts, as the Indians (3-1, 1-1 Midwest Athletic Conference) took the opening kickoff and went 73 yards in just under three minutes to take the quick lead. Quarterback Jason Pottkotter hooked up three times with Aaron Vagedes on the drive, but Pottkotter was on the receiving end of the game's first score. The signal caller handed off to Kenny Wenning out of the slot and waited patiently as Wenning swept right but tossed back to Pottkotter for a six-yard touchdown.
Disaster quickly struck for the Cardinals on the first play of their ensuing drive when a fumble turned the ball back over to the fired up Indians. Pottkotter struck again, but this time from the pocket as the senior threaded the needle to Derek Gaerke for a 22-yard scoring strike that made the score 14-0.
Though they were down, the hosts certainly weren't out. An interception by Ben Chaney set New Bremen up in Fort Recovery territory and Elliott Westerbeck quickly went to work. The senior quarterback found Aaron Clune on fourth down to keep the drive alive and then threw to a streaking Troy Williams for a 37-yard score that put the hosts on the board. Westerbeck took a pitch from his brother Garrett on the PAT and dove in to make the score 14-8.
It took just one play for the Cardinals to tie things up, as defensive lineman Neven Frazee stepped in front of a Pottkotter pass and returned it 31 yards to paydirt. The point-after try failed, but the score was knotted at 14-all.
The punching contest continued through the rest of the half as Wenning scored after a long drive by the Indians but Westerbeck answered with a touchdown bullet to Chaney just before half.
Compared to the rest of the game, the third quarter was a bit of a yawner, but that was just fine for the Cardinals, who took their first lead of the night. A 26-yard reverse by Chaney brought the hosts into the red zone and Westerbeck scored from two yards out to put New Bremen up 27-21.
With just over 10 minutes left in the game, Pottkotter once again hooked up with Vagedes, this time on a 66-yard bomb that tied the score at 27-27. Not to be outdone, the Cardinals stormed right back and retook the lead on a 26-yard touchdown scamper by Clune.
The biggest play of the night proved to be the game-winner, as the Indians' Wenning took a hand off and burst up the middle without being touched on a 54-yard touchdown. The all-important extra point proved to be the difference, as Vagedes split the uprights to give the Indians a 34-33 lead they would never relinquish.
"Both teams were fighting hard and making big plays," explained Fort Recovery's coach Brent Niekamp. "We came up with some big ones when we needed to. We challenged Aaron Vagedes at halftime and he knows that we expect big plays out of him, and he came up with some big ones in the second half."
Indeed, Vagedes was Mr. Big Play on a night of big plays. The senior finished with 8 catches for 194 yards in addition to kicking four extra points, booting a critical 51-yard punt and picking off a pass midway through the fourth quarter.
New Bremen's coach Robb Messick lamented his team's inability to stop Fort Recovery on third and fourth downs.
"We couldn't get off the field when we needed to," said Messick. "They made two touchdowns on fourth downs and they made a lot of big plays when they needed to. They've got some nice skill kids that were able to take advantage of some breakdowns on our assignments."
Both teams will have home games next week. Fort Recovery will host Parkway while New Bremen entertains Minster.
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