With just two returning starters, Paris wasn’t expected to be a factor in the 3A-4 this season. The Eagles continue to prove otherwise.
Paris (5-1-1, 3-1) pounded out a 22-14 win on a cold and soggy Friday at Cedarville. Coach Bryan Hutson brushed off any speculation about potential playoff seeding, however.
"Honestly, it just puts us in a position to make the playoffs," Hutson said. "If you had told me we’d be in this position right now, I would have taken it. These kids have come a long, long way in three years."
Paris began to distance itself from Cedarville (2-5, 1-3) midway through the third quarter when David Buchanan found Grant Hutson across the middle for a 23-yard touchdown. Rodney Lo’s extra point gave the Eagles a 16-7 lead.
The Pirates answered on the next possession with a steady dose of Corey Fincher. The big fullback touched the ball five times on the drive, highlighted by a 59-yard gain on a screen pass from Dylan Shelton. Fincher later bulled 8 yards for the score, pulling Cedarville to within two points.
Paris then extended its lead on Kaleb Owens’ 42-yard TD pass from Buchanan in the closing seconds of the third quarter. From there, Cedarville saw several big opportunities slip away in the final 12 minutes on two lost fumbles — each of them deep in Paris territory — and a fourth-down sack.
"We knew they had a big advantage on us on the line, and they knew we were going to run the ball at the end," Hutson said. "I was really tempted to try to throw it because I thought it would be there, but I didn’t want to stop that clock. Our kids made a lot of mistakes, but found a way to capitalize on some of theirs and pull out a big victory over a very, very good football team."
Devin Ellingburg rushed for 76 yards and a TD for Paris. Austin Soehlman led Cedarville with 66 yards rushing and had an interception on defense while Fincher added 52 yards with two scores. Shelton passed for 190 yards.
Cedarville coach Mark Shelton said his team is still coming to terms with having to forfeit three wins because of playing an ineligible player, but he and his staff are determined not to use the setback as an excuse.
"It’s tough and disappointing," Shelton said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Our kids showed tremendous effort tonight. We had a lot of sophomores running around out there and we’re pretty banged up.
"(The forfeits) are tough to swallow and it’s bothered our kids, but it’s a healing process. Last week, we didn’t show much effort, but tonight, the effort was there. We’re going to keep pushing through and see what happens. We’ll see what we’re made of."