Posted: Sunday, September 4, 2016 6:00 am
MUNCIE — The last time Shelbyville won a football game at Delta High School, it was 2007 and it clinched its first Hoosier Heritage Conference championship.
On Friday at Delta, the Golden Bears took their first step toward earning their second HHC title with a gritty 28-21 victory over the Eagles.
Shelbyville scored twice in a three-minute span of the third quarter to extend its halftime lead to 28-13. That turned out to be enough points thanks to a John Lux interception and a pair of Tanner Lambert sacks inside the final 90 seconds that set off a big celebration for Class 4A, No. 9 Shelbyville (3-0, 1-0 HHC).
“Just a great win,” said Shelbyville coach Pat Parks, who pushed his career coaching mark back above .500 at 115-114. “We’ve never beaten Delta back-to-back in our lives so to that was a big step for this team.”
Shelbyville, who beat Delta in overtime at Mc-Keand Stadium in 2015, never got its offense in high gear against Delta’s quick and athletic defense. But it performed at crucial times and never made a key mistake.
“There were two good teams going at it and mistakes were plentiful,” said Parks. “We were able to overcome them just enough to get that 7-point win.”
One week after passing for nearly 500 yards in a win at Franklin, Lux completed just 13-of-24 attempts at Delta for 136 yards. But the senior threw four more touchdowns to four different receivers to push his season total to 11 in just three weeks.
Earlier in the week, Parks talked about having to take Delta’s best punch and survive it. The Eagles (2-1, 0-1 HHC) had a thunderous start.
Lambert broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game to quickly put Delta in the lead. Shelbyville’s offense gained five yards on its first series and lost 14 on the second but Logan Young’s punt rolled to the Delta 2-yard line.
On the next play, highly-touted Delta running back Charlie Spegal was separated from the ball and the Golden Bears had first-and-goal at the Delta 1.
Lux was sacked on the first play. Damon Lux gained four yards back on second down before John Lux connected with Avery Allen in the end zone to tie the game.
After giving up a 69-yard scoring drive to Delta on the game’s first series, Shelbyville’s defense settled in and produced a Sam Lewis interception, Spegal’s fumble and back-to-back punts.
On Shelbyville’s fourth series, it took the lead for good. John Lux hit Damon Lux over the middle of the field and he raced 50 yards for his third receiving touchdown of the season.
Delta answered with another Lambert scoring run – this time 16 yards on a fourth-and-3 play. The snap for the extra-point kick was not good and that left the Golden Bears with a 14-13 lead at halftime despite having just 19 yards of offense.
“We were happy because we didn’t play real well,” said Parks. “That whole first series was just awful. Your coaching 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids and you never know how their going to react at the beginning of a game and we didn’t react real well. We have to take care of that. We have to come ready to play and we didn’t tonight but I thought we righted it pretty quickly and came back and kept going even though we still made some mistakes.”
Shelbyville was very good in the third quarter.
Young delivered another punt that pinned Delta on its 10. That defense kept Lambert’s offense trapped in its own end of the field and that allowed Damon Lux to get a solid punt return that set up the Golden Bears on the Delta 27.
Five plays later, John Lux found Dalton Fuchs for a 10-yard scoring strike. Tim Clark added the extra point to make it 21-13.
On Delta’s second play following the touchdown, Lambert lost the ball and John Lux went back to work. He hit Damon Lux for a 36-yard gain down to the Delta 11. Then a perfect swing pass to running back Matt Kenkel out of the backfield resulted in an easy score and the Golden Bears were up 15.
Shelbyville’s defense never allowed Delta’s vaunted running game to take control. Collecting five turnovers (three fumbles, two interceptions) helped with that cause.
“We really came out in the third quarter and got after it,” said Parks. “We are creating turnovers and I’m really happy about that.”
Lambert ran for 77 yards and threw for 126 yards and a touchdown. Spegal finished with 75 yards on 21 carries after averaging 146.5 in the Eagles first two wins.
Tim Clark struggled kicking the ball at Franklin after having a very good debut against Greensburg. He was solid again at Delta. The sophomore was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra point kicks.
Meanwhile, first-year punter Logan Young averaged 47.6 yards on five punts with a net of 43.6. That helped Shelbyville win the field position battle all night long.
Senior Nolan Ray continues his assault on the career tackling record at Shelbyville.
But it was senior Melvin Justice and junior Nathan Phillips that had big games at Delta. Justice used his speed to get around the end and harass Lambert anytime he tried to throw the ball. Phillips was in the middle of most second-half tackles around the line of scrimmage including several key hits on Lambert and Spegal.
Shelbyville finished with 130 yards of offense and five first downs – and the win.
“That shows our big-play potential,” said Parks. “I think it shows what the turnovers did for us. And it shows how the defense hung in there a lot because we got put in some bad situations and still came out OK at times and only gave up 21 points.”
Shelbyville, New Palestine, Mt. Vernon and New Castle grabbed wins in week one of the seven-week race to the HHC title.
New Castle’s 15-14 win over Pendleton Heights was its first as a member of the conference. After joining in 2014, the Trojans went 0-7 in each its first two seasons.
New Castle (2-1) comes to McKeand Stadium in Shelbyville Friday. The Trojans have not beaten the Golden Bears since 1933.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports