Late field goal gives Paw Paw slim 3-0 win over Dowagiac

By: 
Butch Hindenach • pawtwice@bloomingdalecom.net
Paw Paw quarterback Jacob Matheny works to get some traction on the wet, slippery turf against the Dowagiac defense Friday night.  The tough defensive battle went scoreless until the last few minutes when Redskin freshman Jose Valverde kicked a field goal for the home team.   Hot Shotz Photography/Matthew Day

   PAW PAW - As is the norm of late for this high school football season, it was a cold, rainy, and very windy  night as the Redskins entertained the Dowagiac Chieftains Friday evening in a regular season final game at Falan Field. The game featured two teams that struggled offensively throughout with good defenses earning part of the credit for the offensive  power outages. It was a long evening, but anyone who left early missed a thrilling ending, for the Redskins won 3-0 on a field goal with 52 seconds to go.
   Freshman Jose Valverde, a recent addition to the varsity program, drilled his kick high and straight through the uprights for the lone points of the game.
   Every ball possession of the first period was like a dance routine - one, two three, kick, again and again.  Finally, the Redskins got the ball on the Chieftain 28 yard mark, but were stopped on the 22.
   It appeared Paw Paw had scored when the Dowagiac returner fumbled a punt; but in the scramble for the ball, a Redskin accidentally kicked the ball, and it went sailing - with help from a strong wind - toward the goal line. In fact, a Redskin took it over the goal line, but the kick was illegal and the ball was returned all the way to the Redskin four, from where Dylon Antles punted it out of danger.
   At the half, neither team barely showed positive yardage on their stat sheets, and there were no numbers, either straight or crooked, on the score board.
   When play resumed, the Chieftains finally began to move the ball, but a possible touchdown-saving tackle by Paw Paw’s Jacob Matheny helped stall the drive near the Paw Paw 20.
   In the final minutes, the game got more interesting.  A bad snap on a Redskin punt gave the Chieftains good field possession until Nate Harden picked off a pass. 
   Finally, the Redskins began a drive on their own 37 with a 20 yard toss from Matheny to Logan Cummins, plus a 13-yard quarterback keeper by Matheny. The drive stalled, and Valverde was seemingly inches wide right on a 27-yard field goal attempt.
   Dowagiac had the ball deep in their own end of the field with 1:34 still left in regulation, when Connor Hindenach stripped the ball from a Chieftain running back, and Andrew Vorce fell on the ball at the seven. Three plays took it to the one, and after a time out, Valverede was sent on the field to battle the elements with another field goal attempt.  This time, he drilled it strongly through the swirling rain to finally record a number on the score board.
   Dowagiac still had almost a minute to stage a rally, but after two incomplete aerials, the quarterback connected for what looked like a first down. However, Kurtis Carr came flying from who knows where, and stopped the runner with a massive hit inches short of the yard marker. A final toss  fell  incomplete, and the Redskins went into victory formation to run the final seconds off and start a large celebration by some soggy but happy Redskins fans.
   It was not a good statistical game for either team, with Dowagiac gaining the most  yardage by a small margin. Redskin runners could muster only about two and a half yards per run, with Matheny, Carr and Kolby Hindenach picking nearly all of the 120 yards gained  on the ground. 
   As has been the case in some  games this year, Paw Paw’s defense was called upon to keep them in the game, and they responded well.  Among defensive standouts were Harden, Mason Popp, Matheny, Vorce, and Connor Hindenach, but the entire defensive side of the ball had to share in the credit for the victory. 
   Paw Paw ended the regular season with a fancy 7-2 record, and now awaits the start of Michigan playoff football.

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