ARCOLA – Still searching for their first win of the 2023 football season, the Tri-County Titans traveled west on Illinois 133 for Lincoln Prairie Conference action against the Arcola Purple Riders. The Titans-Riders rivalry has been one-sided as of late – Tri-County's last win against Arcola came ten years ago in 2013.
The Titans were coming off a 36-16 loss at home last week to ALAH while the Purple Riders suffered their second straight loss after a 21-20 defeat in Argenta. With the midway point of the season approaching, both teams were hungry for a win.
After 48 minutes of football, it was a combination of missed Titan opportunities and strong ball control that helped Arcola hang on for a 21-12 win.
The first quarter was a defensive battle, but Arcola ended the quarter with a big advantage as Jayden Henson-Stice broke out two runs totaling 42 yards, putting the Riders deep into Tri-County territory. The Riders started the second quarter on the Titans’ two-yard line.
Arcola capitalized on the drive in the first play of the second quarter as Brok Moreford punched the ball in from two yards out at the 11:54 mark. Gael Elizondo hit the extra point to make the score 7-0.
The Riders struck again with 7:10 to go before the half. This time, Brody Phillips found Braden Phillips down the right side of the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Elizondo's extra point increased the lead to 14-0.
Tri-County, down two possessions, got a lucky break at the 5:00 mark when Arcola muffed a punt and Garrett Pollock recovered the ball deep in Arcola territory. The Titans got as far as the Riders’ nine-yard line, but a costly penalty moved the ball back on a crucial fourth down. The Titans did not convert.
While the drive ended prematurely, the Titans got another chance late in the half. Andy Houlihan intercepted a pass from Phillips and returned it to the Arcola 14-yard line with 36.7 seconds left.
The Titans used all of that time to finally get on the board at the end of the half as Clay Kibler punched the ball in from one yard out. Kibler's extra point kick attempt was blocked, making the score 14-6 in favor of the Riders going into the locker room.
After the break, the Titans started with the ball. Pollock found Houlihan up the middle, but Houlihan had the ball stripped at the Arcola 15, where the Riders recovered the fumble.
The Titan defense held Arcola at bay, but Myles Watson muffed the Arcola punt and a Rider recovered the ball.
Arcola drove down the field and hit paydirt with 5:26 left in the quarter as Tyson Lewis went to his left and ran in from six yards out. Elizondo hit the extra point to increase the lead to 21-6. However, the Titan defense exacted revenge at the end of the quarter, forcing a fumble and getting the ball back.
As the fourth quarter commenced, the Titans were unable to move the ball during the change of possession, but the defense stepped up again as Jimmy Dillon recovered another Riders fumble at the 7:59 mark to give Tri-County the ball back once more.
Tri-County capitalized on this opportunity using a massive 38-yard run by Alex Hoel to get the ball to the Arcola 10-yard line. With 5:27 left, the Titans called on Kibler once again, punching the ball in from six yards out. The two-point conversion failed to make the score 21-12. Unfortunately for Tri-County, Arcola was patient, maintaining possession for the rest of the contest and securing the nine-point win.
Clay Kibler led the Titans with 23 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns while Alex Hoel added six carries for 42 yards.
Myles Watson had seven carries for 34 yards and two catches for 12 yards. Garrett Pollock was four of nine passing for 56 yards. Watson added five solo tackles while Pollock had three solo tackles and a fumble recovery.
Kibler and his big brother John Kibler had two solo tackles each. Jimmy Dillon had four solo tackles and a fumble recovery while Andy Houlihan added an interception. Cole Decker recorded a fumble recovery as well.
For the Riders, Jayden Henson-Stice recorded eight carries for 52 yards while Tyson Lewis had seven carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. Brody Phillips was six of eight passing for 62 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while Braden Phillips had five catches for 56 yards and a score.