Despite the conclusion of the North Decatur football team’s season after a 40-35 first-round upset loss to host Springs Valley Friday in the first round of the sectional tournament, the Chargers consider the season a success. North produced a collective effort to help a teammate break a school record, and the squad clinched a winning season in Garry Sauley’s return as head coach.
“Unfortunately, our season ended a little earlier than we wanted, but I am proud of the effort that they gave on Friday,” said Sauley.
North found itself down before either team’s offense took over from scrimmage. Valley ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, putting North in a 7-0 hole.
However, the visitors answered right back. North capped its first drive with a game-tying touchdown before going into the half down 26-14.
The Chargers battled back to take a two-point lead in the second half. Kirchhoff scored on a 42-yard touchdown to make it 26-21, and Ricke later ran for a 30-yard go-ahead score, 28-26.
Untimely penalties and two turnovers prevented North from regaining the edge.
The game wound down to the final play, with Springs Valley coming up with a drive-ending interception.
“Even down five with a little over a minute, we moved the ball down in a position that we could have scored, but turned it over to end the game,” recalled Sauley.
North picked up 282 rushing yards on 33 carries, averaging 7.6 yards. Senior Jason Kirchhoff gained 144 yards on 19 carries, while Ricke ran for 88 yards on 14.
Ricke completed five of 10 passes for 80 yards. Kirchhoff caught three passes for 60 yards, and senior John Hammersmith caught two for 20.
Ricke led North defensively with 13 tackles. Senior Nick Gehrich tallied 11 tackles and two sacks, while Kirchhoff and senior Brandon Hocker each added nine stops.
Sauley noted that seeing the team fall short of its postseason goals did not lessen what it accomplished.
“I am very proud of this team,” he said. “They have battled adversity and injuries all season to make a 6-4 season.”
The Chargers will graduate 11 seniors, including Hocker, Dylan House, Kirchhoff, Dylan Koors, Jeffrey White, Thomas Shobe, Nick Stewart, Gehrich, Daniel Combs, Michael Ostendorf, Hammersmith and Kevin Geis.
“Our 11 seniors have pointed the younger players in the direction to carry on the success,” said Sauley. “Now it is up to them to put in the work to maintain the tradition.”
Kirchhoff, a three-year running back, was honored before the final game of the regular season in front of the home crowd. He broke North’s school rushing record and finished his career with close to 4,900 yards. Ben Buening, a four-year starter from 1996 to 1999, held the previous record of 4,417. Buening presented Kirchhoff with the game ball at midfield before the home game against Greensburg Oct. 12.
North rushed for 2,588 yards on 427 carries as a team, averaging six yards per carry. Kirchhoff ended his senior season with 1,572 yards on 245 carries, averaging 6.42 per carry. He scored 14 touchdowns. Ricke ran 125 times for 740 yards (5.92).
More rushing stats: Seth Gauck- 13 carries, 91 yards; Jeff White- 15/55; Kevin Nielson- 5/39; Donovan Meyer- 7/37; Dylan House- 9/28; Hammersmith- 5/20.
Receiving stats: Hammersmith- 22 catches, 368 yards; Kirchhoff- 8/119; Clay Bedel- 8/109; Kevin Geis- 8/104; Brandon Hocker- 4/61; Dylan Koors- 1/14.
Brock Ricke completed 50 passes out of 92 (.543) for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns. Will Jarman completed his only pass attempt for 14 yards.
Defensive stats: tackles- Brandon Hocker 96, Thomas Shobe 74, Brock Ricke 55; Kirchhoff 48, Gehrich/Combs 37 each, Alex Crowe 34, Seth Gauck 23, Dylan House 13, Dustin Westerfeld 11.
Sacks- Shobe 5.5, Gehrich 3.5, Crowe 2, Combs/House/Gauck 1 each.
Fumble recoveries- Hocker/House/Ricke/Shobe/Crowe: one each.
Stats courtesy of MaxPreps.com and Garry Sauley.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.