Quite the Arrival: Eureka Dumps Aurora in NACC Opener, 31-28

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

EUREKADrew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest H.S.) threw a pair of touchdown passes, Le'Anthony Reasnover (Momence, Ill./Momence, H.S.) scored twice as part of a 242-yard night and the defense made stops when it counted, driving the Eureka College football team to a 31-28 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference triumph over Aurora, Saturday night at McKinzie Field.

Saturday's game was the Red Devils' first as an associate member of the NACC. Eureka also notched its first win over Aurora since 1946, ending a string of 13 consecutive losses in the all-time series that included a 10-year rivalry (1998-07) in the Illini-Badger Football Conference. Additionally, Eureka has won 12 consecutive regular-season games, the longest regular-season win streak in the 115-season history of the program.

Reasnover ran for 182 yards and added 60 receiving yards in a night in which the Red Devils never trailed the visitors. Barth directed the EC offense with precision, going 14-for-17 for 168 yards and running for 51 yards on nine attempts.

Dom Parks (East Moline, Ill./United Township H.S.) and Josh Kuse (Heyworth, Ill./Heyworth H.S.) caught touchdowns for the Red Devils.

Austin McCarty (Oakwood, Ill./Oakwood H.S.) paced the EC defense with 10 total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Bryson Smith (Cisco, Ill./Monticello H.S.) and Julius Peyton (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods H.S.) assisted on a sack and Colton Fauver (Catlin, Ill./Salt Fork H.S.) collected his seventh career interception.

After the Eureka defense opened the game with fourth-down stop, the hosts swiftly grabbed a 7-0 lead when Reasnover took his first NACC handoff and sprung free along the AU sideline for a 68-yard score.

The Eureka defense later produced a dramatic fourth-and-goal stop, but AU eventually pulled even when quarterback Gavin Zimbelman connected with Emilio Starks for a 19-yard touchdown strike and a 7-7 tie with 77 seconds left in the first quarter.

The hosts regained the lead on the ensuing series, a 12-play, 66-yard march that ended with Reasnover punched a 1-yard run with 9:33 left in the half. After Aurora jumped offside on the extra-point try, the Red Devils elected to go for two and converted on a rush from Joe Hughes (Normal, Ill./University H.S./McKendree) for a 15-7 lead.

The score remained 15-7 until halftime. Eureka pushed near the AU red zone in the final four minutes before a fumble thwarted the drive, but Fauver returned the favor with 46 seconds left in the half with his interception to allow EC to take the eight-point lead into the locker room.

Aurora struck first in the second half, inching within 15-14 when Connor Olson ran for a 24-yard score at the 11:03 mark of the third quarter. EC responded with a 9-play, 65-yard drive in which Barth connected with Parks on a 10-yard strike for a 22-14 lead midway through the frame.

The Spartans kept pace with an improbable conversion on 3rd-and-goal from Eureka 23 when Zimbelman connected with Olson on a touchdown throw. Eureka led 22-21 after three periods.

The Red Devils scored on the first play of the fourth quarter when Barth found a streaking Kuse for a 33-yard touchdown along the sideline for a 29-21 advantage. An AU penalty on the ensuing kickoff return pinned the Spartans inside their own 10. A sack and an intentional-grounding penalty in the end zone moments later resulted in safety and a 31-21 Eureka lead.

AU battled within 31-28 on Zimbelman's 72-yard throw to Olson with 3:15 left in the game, but the Spartans' offense wouldn't another chance. A 38-yard run by Reasnover pushed EC deep into AU territory and another Reasnover conversion on 3rd-and-2 allowed the Red Devils to kneel out the clock and win their first-ever NACC contest.

NOTABLES: Saturday's win was the Red Devils' first over Aurora since a 20-6 victory on Oct. 5, 1946 … Eureka is 4-0 for the first time since 1991, just the second 4-0 start in the modern era (1978-present) and the fifth 4-0 start in the history of the program … Eureka controlled the clock to the tune of 36:13 in time of possession.