When you talk of games for the ages, you usually like those games to have ended in your team winning. Over my years of covering Miner football from the radio booth, there have been many “Games For The Ages” that have filled my memory… and this one adds to it.
Sure, it definitely would have been better to have the W, but as I write this I am filled with pride on how this Miner team battled all night to the bitter end, showing composure and certainly a lot of heart in the process. Games like these are filled with big plays, momentum swings, and blood pressure checks. Where do you start when trying to recap such a battle?
How about the opening kickoff! Boonville was pumped up, as it was Pioneer Senior Night. The home crowd was in full voice as the boot landed to upback Hunter Gennicks at the Linton 27, and he would break free reaching the Pioneer 25. Senior Trey Goodman and Junior Kaulin Padgett had back-to-back yard runs, then Goodman went in from the 9 to silence the Boonville faithful. Gennicks hit Senior Eli Poe for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead just a minute and a half into the contest. Linton went back to squib kicking down the middle on kickoffs to avoid Devon Mockabee having any opportunity to return.
Who is Mockabee? We had a glimpse of him last year in Linton, holding him to 74 yards, in a year he ran for 1,384 yards. But the 6’-0″ 190 lb Senior came in averaging 252-yards PER game this year, 419 last week against Gibson Southern, and already with 1,009 rush yards and 14 TDs coming into week five. Problem is with squib kicks is they can give the opponent a good starting position, as it was on this kickoff at the Boonville 44. The Linton defense was determined to make Mockabee have to work for his yards — and not give up the big play. He served notice with an 18-yard run on the second play of the series. But the Pioneers converted a 4th and 7 at the Linton 21 on a pass from Junior Mason Phillips to Senior Skyler Rudisill, then Mockabee got outside for the 14-yard TD run. They would match Linton on the conversion to forge an 8-to-8 tie at 5:48 of the opening quarter.
Up to this point in the season, Linton had not lost a fumble, but that changed on the first play of their second possession with the ball punched out of Padgett’s arms and recovered by Boonville’s John Krantz at the Miner 27. But as it has been the case a lot thus far in 2020, the defense stepped up and stopped the Pioneers on 4th and 7 at the Miner 24. The Miners then marched 76-yards on 14 plays, eating up over six minutes. Drew Smith pile-drived a 16-yard run to start things off, Gennicks converted a 3rd and 6, and a key 4th and 1 conversion by Smith put Linton at the Boonville 25. Goodman busted for 19-yards to the 6, then would score from the 2 a couple plays later. However, Gennicks was stopped on the two-point play and a 14-8 Miner lead at 9:39 of the second.
The Defense forced the Pioneers to a three-and-out, but the punt pinned Linton at their own 6. Gennicks got 19 on a 3rd and 3 and reached the 39 facing a 3rd and 3 when disaster struck. With 6:05 left to half and a 14-8 lead, as well as possession of the ball having moved from their own 6, the perfect end of the half would have been a Miner scoring drive of course! Instead, quite the opposite occurred.
The exchange on the handoff ended up airborne, then taking a friendly bounce straight up and into the arms of none other than Mockabee in full stride. So, 39-yards later Mockabee had tied the score in a flash to the fancy of the home crowd. Fortunately, the PAT kick was blocked by Junior Donovan DeBruhl. At 14-14, big “Mo” had switched hands, and the Pioneers stuffed the Miners into a puny. Jaydan Miller again proved his value with a 44-yard punt and no return from Mockabee.
Suddenly, neither offense could move the ball. Junior LB Gabe Eslinger dropped Mockabee for a 4-yard loss on 3rd and 2, forcing a Pioneer punt, but Linton had to punt again, as well. This time, Mockabee ran up on the ball near the sideline and caught it on a bounce, then hit the blasters around the Boonville 38 getting into Miner territory — until Landon Giles got enough to get him out-of-bounds at the Linton 46 with 1:56 ’til half. Right away, Mockabee got outside and rambled for 26 to the Miner 20. Three more Mockabee runs edged them closer, but set up a huge 4th and 1 at the Miner 11 with under 45 seconds left.
Mockabee pushed forward 4-yards to the 7, but time was their enemy. The Pioneers went to the air, but, despite a Phillips scramble to stay alive, the pass defense stayed true and forced a throwaway. Worse yet for the Pioneers, a holding penalty pushed them back to the 25. Boonville went to trickery with Phillips pitching to slot back Clay Connor, who looked to the end zone for open receivers, but again the Miner Secondary did not bite. Connor launched an ill-advised pass to a crowded corner where Padgett came up with the interception. That was very important, too, because there was 15 seconds still on the clock. Linton took a knee, and the halftime score read all even at 14.
The Miners had the edge in yardage 138 to 106 at the half. In fact, they held Mockabee to 81 yards on 16 carries — and more importantly, did not allow the big, long TD run. The Miners had suffered a loss, though, as Donovan Debruhl was injured in those last plays of the half. That hurt because he’s a two-way starter and cog in the interior defensive line with four stops on Mockabee. Consider as well, Boonville (being a 4A school) had a roster of 92 listed compared to the 41 for Linton. It must be said that Boonville was without their own two-way starter Cameron Dorsey on both lines. He is their senior leading tackler behind LB Connor Wolfe. And they would lose Wolfe on the second half kick-off, as he picked up the squib kick and break tackles to get to the Miner 37 with Drew Smith saving it from being a TD. The tackle appeared to bring Wolfe down awkward and twisted or sprained his ankle. He tried to come back on defense, but he last only a couple plays.
Mockabee did have the breakout run just two plays later with a 31-yard run to put the Pioneers up 20-14, but the 2-point pass was incomplete. The Miners would have to answer or perhaps the tide would be turned perpetually to the Pioneers. And answer they did; in three plays. Starting with Goodman following pulling O linemen gained 34 yards to the Boonville 41. Two plays later, it was Gennicks’ turn, as he cut up the field for a 38-yard TD run. Goodman was wide open for the two-point pass, putting Linton up again 22-20 with 9:57 to continue the fireworks in the second half.
Boonville would start their next possession at their own 28. The Pioneers would have to own this drive. First a 15-yard pass to Conner on 3rd and 3, then 18-yards to Rudisill on another scramble. He then hit Cooper Aigner for another 18 to the Miner 26, making yet another 3rd down conversion with a 9-yarder to Conner and the Miner 6. The 13 play, 72-yard drive was finished with another Phillips-to-Conner pass of 9-yards on yet another 3rd down.
Phillips also hit Max Lockridge for the two-point conversion, and that gave Boonville a 28-22 lead at 3:25 of the 3rd quarter. Linton would get a great starting point after the kickoff with Gennicks again on an 18-yard return with another 15 tacked on for face-masking, putting the ball at the Boonville 42. Smith carried 3 of the first 4 plays, including a 9-yard, 3rdand 5 up the gut. Facing 4th and 4 at the Pioneer 22, Gennicks was unable to wrangle free as Reece Wilder dropped Hunter for no gain, a big stop for the Pioneer defense.
The Miners would be handed a gift as Mockabee coughed up the ball for the first time all year on the first play with Eslinger recovering at the Boonville 33 after an 11-yard run. It was Goodman — again — with a big run in clearly his best performance of the year in terms of yards with 120 for the night. His 20-yard run put Linton at the Pioneer 13, and Smith pushed it to the 6 on the next play. Gennicks almost had a pass TD to TE Levi Grounds that was ruled no catch. Grounds played both sides of the ball as starting TE Jackson Lynn was out with a high ankle sprain.
Boonville’s D got stingy, and the Miners again set up for a 4th and 1 at the 4. Gennicks didn’t get much, but did push to the 1, giving Linton four more chances to score. Gennicks would do that on the next snap and tie things up again 28-28 with 9:10 remaining. The chance to go ahead failed as Hunter Johns was held out on the two-point play.
Again, the squib kick put Boonville starting at mid-field; and, again, a big play was nullified on a blindside penalty that put Boonville back at the Pioneer 42. Mockabee seemingly getting stronger as the game winds down, busted outside again on a 24-yard run and fresh downs at the Miner 34. Facing a 3rd and 9 at the Miner 19, Jaydan Miller made a terrific one-on-one open field tackle on Lockridge, forcing a 4th and 8, which became 4th and 18 after back-to-back false start penalties. Phillips’ pass for Conner sailed high with coverage from Poe, and Linton’s D had once again stepped up to make a big stop inside their red zone.
The Miners were stymied on two runs. They almost had their own big play as Gennicks spotted Grounds open deep, but the over-the-shoulder catch is not easy to begin with — especially for a converted offensive lineman. Miller booted a 40-yard punt to the Pioneer 36 with just 3:17 left.
This time, the Miners wrapped up Mockabee on successive plays and freshman Marques Ballard punted the ball 34-yards to the Miner 3, and that is where Johns took it on the run straight up the gut. Just when you thought he would be stopped, he broke free and hit pay dirt to the delight of Miner fans, who made the long drive, as well as your radio voices of Darren and myself. In all, it was a 70-yard punt return, and it has been a long while since we have had a special teams TD.
In another huge play, Gennicks rolled out to pass, then he darted up field to put the margin back to 8 at 36-28 with only 1:31 left. The stage set from the Pioneer 43, Phillips fired deep downfield along the Miner sideline, hoping that Linton would be looking for Mockabee. It was Ballard and Poe, and it looked like Ballard had a step, but the pass did not have enough air to reach Ballard. Poe made a nice recovery. He looked to be set to make the interception, in fact everyone thought he had made the pick — including yours truly and the entire Boonville crowd. What actually happened was the ball was indeed in Poe’s hands, as both players made plays on the ball. The ball bounced in Poe’s hands, and Ballard snagged it as both players hit the ground. It was all emotions in one moment.
This put Boonville at the Miner 19, and they put their chances on Navy recruit Mockabee with 4 straight carries. On the fourth, he powered through from 9-yards out with only 18 seconds left in the game; however, Linton was still up 36-34. Boonville had to convert the two-point play. It was no shock that Mockabee got the call, and he easily scored to knot it all again at 36 each. Gennicks took a knee to end the game.
This was Linton’s second overtime game this year, winning in week two over Sullivan 22-16. Boonville was on offense to start, and it was Phillips keeping on a bootleg and reaching the 3. From there, it was Mockabee to score, and then again for the wo-point play, putting the Pioneers up 44-36 and forcing Linton to answer. Goodman ran for 6-yards, but Gennicks lost 1 on 2nd down, leaving the Miners 3rd and 5 in a must score scenario. The Miners went to Gennicks in a roll out where he can throw or run, and run he chose, shooting through defenders into the end zone. It all came down to one play, and it was essentially the same run/keep option. This time, the Pioneer defense played it much better. Being to the short side of the field, Gennicks was hemmed in and eventually tried to thread a pass into a crowd where it was picked off.
As I stated in the opening paragraph of this review, the Miners, and really the Pioneers too, showed a lot of heart in battling back and forth. Both teams made big plays on both sides of the ball. Boonville relied heavily on the run game of Mockabee with 39 rushes for 212 yards with 131 in the second half. Boonville ran 42 rushing plays. Yet the passing plays by Phillips were key at times, none more than that 38-yarder to Ballard. He finished 10 of 19 for 128 yards. Lockridge and Conner each had three catches. It was a solid night for Linton running the ball and finishing with 274 yard on 48 rushes, which checks in with 5.7 yards a carry. Trey Goodman became the third Miner with a 100-yard game with 120 on 17 carries and 2 scores. Hunter Gennicks was almost there again with 93 yards on 14 carries and 3 TDs. Drew Smith again did the dirty work inside 41 yards on 8 touches. As promising as the passing game was last week, it was not much of a factor in this game just hitting on 1 pass, and for just 3 yards in 7 attempts.
Truly in the end, though, it came down to one play to get 3-yards to force a second overtime. It was a game you hate to see anyone lose, but, of course, being a Miner fan you have to feel for the players and coaches. The effort was outstanding, as you could hear the coaches coaching from the sidelines, you could see the sideline constantly bolstering those on the field and you could feel the team energy.
It was a huge effort on the defensive side as Mockabee has shown he can bust 90-yards on every play every down. Linebackers Gabe Eslinger and Drew Smith each were double-digit tacklers (12 and 10), Kaulin Padgett added 7 playing safety with Jaydan Miller moved to cornerback and adding 3. Kudos to Junior Dalton Carpenter, who came in on the offensive line when DeBruhl was sidelined. That offensive line (Giles, Giles, Giles, Franklin, DeBruhl, Carpenter, and TE Grounds) were able to make holes as attested by 274-yards on the ground. Several others on the defensive side made plays as well: Landon Giles (in for DeBruhl at DT), Damien Giles, Dalton Carpenter, Bracey Breneman, Hunter Johns, Braymon Lannon, Levi Grounds, Jackson Fields, Levi Grounds, and the Miner DBs (Padgett, Poe and Goodman)
- Linton-Trey Goodman 9 Yard Run (Hunter Gennicks to Eli Poe) 10:35 1st
- Boonville-Devin Mockabee 14 Yard Run (Devin Mockabee Run) 5:48 1st
- Linton-Trey Goodman 2 Yard Run (Pass Fail) 9:39 2nd
- Boonville-Devin Mockabee 39 Yard Fumble Return (PAT Blocked) 6:05 2nd
- Boonville-Devin Mockabee 31 Yard Run (Pass Fail) 11:31 3rd
- Linton-Hunter Gennicks 38 Yard Run (Hunter Gennicks to Trey Goodman) 9:57 3rd
- Boonville-Clay Connor 9 Yard Pass From Mason Phillips (Mason Phillips to Max Lockridge) 3:25 3rd
- Linton-Hunter Gennicks 1 Yard Run (Run Fail) 9:10 4th
- Linton-Hunter Johns 70 Yard Punt Return) (Run Fail) 1:31 4th
- Boonville- Devin Mockabee 9 Yard Run (Devin Mockabee Run) 0:18 4th
- Boonville- Devin Mockabee 3 Yard Run (Devin Mockabee Run) 1st OT
- Linton-Hunter Gennicks 5 Yard Run (Pass Intercepted) 1st OT
Featured photo by Austin Gordon Photography