La PORTE — It was a night of missed opportunities for La Porte.
Three lost fumbles, one leading directly to a touchdown, a bad snap on an extra-point, a missed extra point, some defensive breakdowns, some offensive mistakes, and some special teams’ miscues.
Still, the Slicers had a chance at the end.
Trailing by one point, they couldn’t score any points in the waning seconds, after they took over at their own 5-yard line and advanced the ball all the way to Hobart’s 27-yard line.
La Porte quarterback Caleb Kirkham was sacked on the last play of the game, and the clock ran out as the Slicers were out of timeouts. So La Porte dropped its home opener, 21-20, in gut-wrenching fashion to the visiting Brickies on Friday night.
“We should have won this game, and that’s what makes this one very tough to swallow,” La Porte coach Dave Sharpe said. “We’re up 14-7 with the ball. And then, the execution went out the window, and Hobart’s execution increased ten fold offensively. And they capitalized on our glaring mistakes.”
Early in the third quarter, the Slicers (0-2) took a 14-7 lead and seemed to take control of the contest.
Hobart (2-0) bounced back, though.
La Porte’s defense made an exceptional goal-line stand on fourth down and goal from the 2, stuffing Sal Valle to turn the ball over on downs. But a few plays later, a Slicers’ ball carrier was stripped of the ball by Drake Recio, and Recio grabbed the ball cleanly and darted 16 yards for a touchdown. That tied the score, 14-14, midway through the third.
From there, the visitors appeared to have the momentum.
The Slicers went three plays and out on their next drive, and the Brickies scored on their next possession.
Quarterback Riley Johnston connected with Zach Vode on a 14-yard fade pass for a touchdown. That put Hobart ahead 21-14 with just over two minutes left in the third.
After moving the ball well past midfield, La Porte fumbled and the Brickies recovered again. But this time, the visitors didn’t score, as the Slicer defense forced them to three plays and out.
La Porte then marched 89 yards in 10 plays, finishing it with Kirkham’s 70-yard TD strike down the middle of the field to Isaac Alexander on third down and 15.
“We just streaked three guys vertical and Sunshine (Isaac Alexander) out-ran the middle safety, and Caleb (Kirkham) put the ball on the money,” Sharpe said. “That got us right back in it.”
The Slicers missed the extra point, however, so Hobart still led 21-20 midway through the fourth.
La Porte’s defense followed by forcing another punt after just three plays. So it got the ball back with 3:41 left and all three timeouts.
The Slicers methodically drove down the field, all on rushes, converting a pair of fourth downs, including a fourth down and 4 near midfield.
“We couldn’t quite break free,” Sharpe said. “They were playing us an 8-man front with three guys very, very deep. We popped through the 8-man line numerous, numerous, numerous times. But we couldn’t quite rip off the big one.”
La Porte got all the way down to the 27-yard line, and took its last timeout with 10.4 seconds to go. The Brickies then came up with a huge sack to end the game as the Slicers tried to pass it.
“We wanted a quick slant to Parker (Hill), catching it for a gain of 7 or 8,” Sharpe said. “Spike the ball at about the 17- or 18-yard line. And have Javier (Robles) kick the game winner.”
On La Porte’s first play from scrimmage to begin the second half, Oswald darted 43 yards up the middle to pay dirt. So La Porte pushed its advantage to 14-7 after a bad snap on the extra-point kick.
La Porte’s defense held Hobart without a first down to start the third to allow its offense to score.
On the night, the Slicers ‘D’ came up with some critical stops, led by defensive lineman Matt Neff and Kaleek Biggers.
“They did a good job,” Sharpe said. “They got us the ball back near the end.”
La Porte starting linebacker Landen Cerrillos didn’t play for an unknown reason.
Oswald guided the Slicers with 122 yards rushing on 17 carries with two touchdowns. His first TD was an 11-yard run in the second quarter. Caleb Kuzdas had 110 yards on the ground on 18 attempts.
La Porte travels to Valparaiso (0-2) next Friday night for the Duneland Athletic Conference opener.
Hobart 21, La Porte 20
Mickey Oswald rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns for the Slicers, including a 43-yard TD run.
HOBART 21, La PORTE 20
La Porte`0`8`6`6`— 20
HO — Johnston 53 run (Hylek kick), 10:37.
LP — Oswald 12 run (Oswald 2-point conversion run), 6:17.
LP — Oswald 43 run (bad snap on kick), 10:04.
HO — Recio 16 fumble return (Hylek kick), 5:22.
HO — Johnston 14 pass to Vode (Hylek kick), 2:05.
LP — Kirkham 70 pass to Alexander (Robles kick no good), 6:46.
Sacks by-Yards Lost`2-3`2-18
Time of Possession`22:34`25:26
RUSHING- Hobart (Johnston 14-78, TD, Valle 20-72, Olmos 1-6, Lipke 1(-4)), La Porte (Oswald 17-122, 2 TD, Kuzdas 18-110, Alexander 13-31, Bergquist 5-19, Kirkham 7-8).
PASSING- Hobart (Johnston 10-18-0, 85, TD), La Porte (Kirkham 1-5-0, 70, TD).
RECEIVING- Hobart (Vode 5-52, TD, Lipke 1-17, Benton 3-16, Valle 1-0), La Porte (Alexander 1-70, TD).
Records- Hobart 2-0, La Porte 0-2.