So many players stepped up to make big plays for Republic in a 48-43 win over Willard, it was hard to keep track of them all. So here’s a sampler:
Justin Sturdevant blocked a punt to set up an early touchdown and contributed a big sack later in the game.
Jarod Hughes threw Republic’s first touchdown pass on a trick play after taking a lateral from Lucas Hayes, hitting a wide-open Claye White for 71 yards.
White caught three passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Landon Porter picked off a pass in the end zone to snuff out a Willard scoring drive, then broke up the potential game-winning pass as time expired.
Micah Erickson, making his first varsity start, recovered two fumbles that turned into two touchdowns.
Riley Sigman ran for more than 100 yards in just eight carries.
And Lucas Hayes, with the game on the line, engineered a near-perfect 80-yard scoring drive that resulted in the game-winning touchdown with 50 seconds remaining.
“I’m always hard on Lucas (Hayes). That kid played awesome tonight,” said coach Dustin Baldwin. “Those last two drives – phenomenal football, man.”
The late-game heroics helped Republic avoid what would have been a gut-kicking loss. The Tigers had built a 34-7 halftime lead, then watched it slip away over the course of the second half, until Willard took the lead with 2:07 remaining. The ensuing kickoff went into the end zone, leaving 80 yards between Republic and the end zone. The game-winning drive went seven plays in just over a minute. It included a 3rd-and-10 reception by White that went for 33 yards. Another pass to Gavyn Walker went for 24 yards and put the Tigers on the 12 yard line. Hayes ran it into the end zone on a quarterback draw on the very next play to give Republic the lead again.
Willard had one last opportunity, driving inside the Republic 20, but White broke up the potential winning touchdown in the end zone from his defensive back position.
“I’m proud of our kids. We hung in there (through) a lot of adversity. We made one more play than they did,” said Baldwin.
Lucas Hayes completed 7 of 15 passes for 204 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries.
Josh Sterling had six carries for 45 yards, and Gavyn Walker had two catches for 50 yards.
Republic improves to 2-3. Willard falls to 2-3.