With their quarterback and most of their defensive starters on quarantine and not playing, the Du Quoin football team nevertheless jumped out to a 26-10 lead with 5:55 remaining in the game and held off a furious attack by Herrin to win, 26-23.
"Going in we were worried about who was going to be available, so getting through the game was beneficial to our kids," said Du Quoin Coach Derek Beard. "We had a lot of kids step up and make plays who hadn't done a lot up to that point, so hats off to those guys.
"We were fortunate to get through that and get a win," Beard added. "Anytime you get a win with our schedule it's a good week."
With Friday's win, Du Quoin improved to 2-1 on the season and will begin its SIRR-Mississippi Division schedule this week on the road at Carterville Friday night. The Lions will also come in with a 2-1 record after handing Murphysboro its first defeat of the season, 31-21, on the road.
The Indians' only loss is a forfeit to Harrisburg during the first week of the COVID quarantine.
"Now we get everybody back this week and I'm very happy there," Beard said. "Carterville is a good football team. It's always a good ballgame when Carterville and Du Quoin get together."
Friday's game was as close as the final score indicated. The Indians finished the night with 334 total yards on 216 yards rushing and 118 passing; while the Tigers finished with 324 yards with 221 rushing and 103 passing.
What the Indians did better was averaging 6.2 yards a carry, which included a 64-yard touchdown run by Nick Brown to open the fourth quarter. Brown finished with a game-high 137 yards rushing on 13 carries. Jonathan Hamilton added 78 yards on 10 carries.
On the defensive side the Indians got the play of the game by sophomore defensive back Damarion Johnson. With the Tigers at the nine driving to cut the Indians 19-10 lead Johnson picked off Cameron Evrard two yards deep in the end zone and ran the length of the field for a 14-point swing. Instead of a 19-17 lead the Indians led 26-10 with 5:55 remaining.
"This was Damarion's first football game of his career," Beard said. "This was the first time since 2019 we've had a pick six."
The Indians would need those points as the Tigers returned the kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown 22 seconds later. They scored again on a one-yard run with 23 seconds remaining after the Indians were stopped on 4th down at the Herrin 30 with 2:30 left.
Also making his first varsity start was sophomore quarterback Camden Waller in place of senior David Lee. Waller completed 11 of 17 passes for 118 yards with no interceptions. Jaden Smith was his favorite target with six catches for 37 yards.
"We didn't want to put too much on Waller, but we found out pretty quick he was able to make adjustments and run our offense," Beard said. "With seven new defensive starters keeping our defense off the field was our goal and we were able to do that. Waller did a tremendous job completing passes when we needed them."
After a scoreless first quarter the Indians took the early lead on a nine-play, 55-yard drive that started with a bad snap by Herrin on 4th-and-3 that resulted in a 10-yard loss. Following a 15-yard run around left end by Brown, Gabe Adams powered in from the one -- and 10 seconds into the second quarter the Indians led 6-0.
The Tigers took lead, 7-6, eight minutes later on a one-yard run by quarterback Cameron Evrard at the end of a 13-play, 66-yard drive. With 29 seconds remaining the Tigers kicked a 44-yard field goal to take a 10-6 lead.
With time running out at the half Waller hooked up with Seth Howerton for 49 yards down to the Herrin 13, but time ran out leaving the Indians down 10-6 at the half. Howerton finished with three catches for 65 yards.
The third quarter opened with Brady Knapp picking off Evrard to set up a 14-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Adams scoring from the one again. The kick was good and the Indians led 13-10 with 3:50 left in the third quarter. The defense also recovered a fumble at the end of the third quarter.
The defense forced a punt to open the fourth quarter setting up the Indians at their own 36. On the first play Brown raced 64 yards to take a 19-10 lead with 10:43 remaining in the game.
Herrin 0 10 0 13 -- 23
Du Quoin 0 6 7 13 -- 26
Total yards: DQ, 334; Herrin, 324
DQ rushing: 216 yards total. Nick Brown, 13-137-1TD; Jonathan Hamilton, 10-78; Gabe Adams, 6-21-2TD; Jonathan Savage 2-(-2); Camden Waller, 4-(-18).
Herrin rushing: 221 yards total. Cameron Evrard 18-107-1TD; Reese Billingsley 16-60; Lucas Sissom 6-30; Caden Miles 6-24-1TD.
DQ passing: 118 yards total. Camden Waller, 11 for 17; 0 int; 118 yards; 0 TDs.
Herrin passing: 103 yards total. Cameron Evrard, 9 for 13; 2 int; 103 yards; 0 TDs.
DQ receiving: Jaden Smith 6-37; Seth Howerton 3-65; Nishan Woody 1-12; Gage Green 1-4.
Herrin receiving: Jonathan Harrison 3-25; Lucas Sissom 2-38; Keaton Corasco 2-19; Reese Billingsley 1-14; Caden Miles 1-7.