After remaining in control of Friday night’s Mid-Indiana Conference football clash with Western for three quarters, Maconaquah began to see its hopes slipping away in the final minute.
Leading 21-18, the visiting Braves were stacked up deep in their own end as Western faced a third-and-goal from the one-yard line. A false start penalty on the Panthers, their 10th penalty of the night, moved the Panthers back.From the six-yard line, Western tailback Ryan Alexander took a handoff up the middle and seemed all but in the end zone when the ball popped up in the air. Maconaquah safety K.J. Walton stabbed the ball out of the air and raced 101 yards for a touchdown up the home sideline with 30 seconds left, sealing the Braves’ 28-18 victory in a fitting cap to a whirlwind fourth quarter.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Please, no one get a penalty or anything,’” Walton said of the return TD. “‘Please just let me score this so we can win this game and move forward. If I score this, we win this game and beat this team. A team that we haven’t beaten in 10 years.’”
Maconaquah last defeated Western in 2004. The Braves had dropped 10 straight in the series, including a pair of losses in tournament play. It was the type of victory for which coach Mark Hartman had been patiently waiting.
“It’s a turning point in our program … something we’ve been looking for,” Hartman said. “We’ve been wanting to make sure we just changed the culture of our school, our program. We’re slowly doing that. All the hard work, the weights, the study tables — all the things we’ve wanted to do all along. We accomplished something [Friday] night.”
Brave junior tailback Cody Hicks was the star in the win, rushing for 260 yards and three TDs on 31 carries. The play he fixated on, though, was his lone fumble of the night.