Graham hits the winner

Tiger kicker splits the uprights with seconds left in game to hand Paris 17-14 victory

By Jeff Chambers prairiepresssports@gmail.com
Posted 10/14/19

OLNEY — Paris Tiger senior kicker Ethan Grahm split the uprights with a 26-yard field goal in the final seconds as Paris handed Olney their first Little Illini Conference loss of the …

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Graham hits the winner

Tiger kicker splits the uprights with seconds left in game to hand Paris 17-14 victory

Posted

OLNEY — Paris Tiger senior kicker Ethan Grahm split the uprights with a 26-yard field goal in the final seconds as Paris handed Olney their first Little Illini Conference loss of the season.

Graham — who began kicking for the Tigers a couple of weeks ago — helped spoil Olney’s homecoming by the score of 17-14.

With the victory, the Tigers move into a tie with Olney atop the Little Illini Conference standings at 5-1. Paris also secures its third consecutive playoff berth with their sixth win overall. Olney falls to 5-2 on the season.

After the area received their first measurable rainfall in more than a month, the playing surface at Olney was sloppy. Neither team could establish much of a running attack and both teams relied on big plays to try to negate the field conditions.

Paris kicked off to start the game and Olney’s Jace Greenwood returned the ball into Tiger territory to the 40-yard line. Nine plays later, quarterback Kaleb Foster scored from 13 yards out to give Olney a 7-0 lead at the 9:43 mark of the first quarter.

The Tigers began their initial drive with terrible field position, starting at their own 28-yard line. It appeared Paris was going to go three-and-out but as Sam Mays punted the ball away, Olney was penalized for roughing the kicker, giving the Tigers a first down at the 46-yard line of Olney. On third-and-3, senior tailback Coy Landrum finally busted through the Olney defensive line and scored from 47-yards out to make it 7-6. Graham tacked on the extra point tying the score at seven with 5:59 left in the first period.

Olney came out throwing on their next possession, but a sack by Hudson Hollis and a pair of incompletions forced the home team to punt. Paris could not muster any type of offense on its next possession and the Tigers punted after just three plays.

The two teams traded punts on four consecutive possessions. Paris took advantage of a 10-yard punt by Olney to begin its fourth drive of the evening at the 20-yard line of the hosts.

Nathan Zorn was the drive’s workhorse for the Tigers as he carried five times in a row to get the Tigers down to the Olney three-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, quarterback Danny Perry found the end zone but a holding call pushed the ball back 10-yards. On the next play, Perry hit Mason Hutchings for just a three-yard gain, and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs at the Olney 10.

Olney tailback Gavin Dorn gave the home team some breathing room as he rattled off a 33-yard romp for a first down near midfield. Just as quickly as Olney took advantage of a busted play on the Dorn run, cornerback Garrett King intercepted Foster’s pass to give the Tigers the ball at their own 28-yard line. Perry completed an 18-yard pass to Mason Hutchings, then handed the ball to him on the next play for three more yards. On a play designed to be a handoff to Landrum, Perry improvised, then used his speed to outrun the Olney defense and score from 56-yards out. Graham split the uprights once again and Paris led 14-7 with 4:11 left in the first half.

After the kickoff, Olney relied on Foster’s legs as the senior tailback covered all 65-yards, with the last 55 resulting in a game-tying score. With 3:20 left in the half, Paris had designs on scoring one last time before intermission. However, the Tigers punted the ball back to Olney with 1:28 left and it appeared the home team might gain momentum heading into the locker room. Garrett King ended the final scoring threat as he picked Foster off for the second time to end the half. Neither team could muster much of a scoring threat in the third quarter, including the first 10:50 of the fourth.

With just 1:10 remaining in the game and following a defensive stop by the Tigers on fourth-and-3, Paris took over at their own 37-yard line. Perry tucked the ball away on first down and sprinted 39-yards to the Olney 33. A face-mask penalty tacked on an additional 15-yards to give Paris a first down at the 18 with just 14 seconds remaining. Perry hit King on a short pass with four seconds remaining setting the scene for a potential game-winning field goal.

A perfect snap by Hutchings, a perfect hold by Perry and a perfect boot by Graham from 26-yards away gave the Tigers the final lead of the game, 17-14.

Leading the way on the ground was Perry with 102 yards on nine carries and a score. Landrum toted the ball 22 times for 60 yards and a touchdown. Nathan Zorn gained 14 yards on seven carries and Hutchings picked up seven on a pair of touches. Perry completed seven of 15 passes for 92 yards. Sam Mays caught three of those passes for 41 yards. King hauled in a pair of passes for 30 yards as well collected three interceptions in the game. Hutchings caught two passes for 21.

With the victory, the Tigers have now qualified for the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Up next will be a trip to Robinson to square off with the Maroons and former Paris High School player and Coach Casey Pinnell.