GARRETT – As the rain continued, the reign ended.
Leo’s streak of 26 consecutive ACAC victories – a domination that began in 2008 and continued through three straight conference championships – came to an error-plagued close Friday as Garrett forced the Lions into five turnovers, three of which were turned into touchdowns in the Railroaders’ 20-6 win that shoves Garrett to the front of the ACAC line with one week left in the regular season.
I don’t want to share this thing with anybody, Garrett coach Chris DePew shouted to his team as they gathered around him.
Garrett (7-1, 5-0) plays at Heritage (6-2, 4-1) on Friday for a shot at the outright title. Leo (6-1, 4-1) suffered its first ACAC loss since Sept. 26, 2008, when it fell to Heritage.
It is what it is, Leo coach Jared Sauder said. We were never really concerned about the streak. Week by week is how we’ve done it. That’s what we’re going to have to do this week. Just get back on. It’s a new week.
Leo finishes its regular season Oct. 13 against Bluffton at Lucas Oil Stadium.
From its first possession that ended with Nolan Wilson grabbing a 22-yard touchdown pass from Sam Waters for a 6-0 lead, it appeared as though the Leo run would continue.
But then came the deluge of turnovers.
Waters’ first fumble at his 35-yard line set up Drake Landes’ 33-yard touchdown pass from Noah Follett with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
Another fumble – this one at the Lions’ 37 – teed up Austin McCray’s 31-yard touchdown run early in the second.
And midway through the third quarter, Garrett senior Kyle Lanning intercepted Waters and went 69 yards for a touchdown.
We were in cover two, said Lanning, who added a second interception with 16.7 seconds left in the third quarter. I was jamming the guy. I saw the quarterback looking at that receiver, and I watched his eyes the whole way. I ended up with the ball. I wasn’t worried about falling down. I was worried about getting caught.
Ask DePew, in his first season at Garrett after coaching at East Noble, about getting caught.
Everybody in this conference has been shooting for Leo for quite a while, he said. I’m sure it’s hard to have that target on your backs like they’ve had. It’s a good position to be the hunter rather than the hunted. A win like this, I’m sure people are going to give us their best game, too, but we have to rise to the challenge.
Twice within the final 6:30, Garrett’s defense had to rise to the challenge to stymie Leo scoring threats. Once was when a bad snap gave the Lions the ball at the Railroaders’ 6-yard line, but Leo was held out. And then in the game’s final seconds while at the Garrett 9, Leo couldn’t get in.
We were coming in as underdogs, Lanning said. We weren’t going to accept that role as being underdogs. We were coming in to win it. We want this conference. We know we’re the best in this conference.