By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. — Pendleton Heights hosted Delta on Friday night in a Hoosier Heritage Conference clash.
It was homecoming night for the Arabians, and it was a chance to erase a three-game HHC losing streak.
Unfortunately, the Arabians were unable to overcome five turnovers and lost 26-7 to the visiting Eagles.
“We had a big crowd, homecoming is always a big event,” Pendleton Heights coach John Broughton said. “We hung in the game, our defense kept us there.”
The game got off to a sluggish start as both teams turned the ball over early. David Smekens of Delta picked off a Jesse Furrow pass and returned it to the Arabians’ 19-yard line in the first quarter. The Eagles moved the ball inside the 10 but fumbled the ball over to Pendleton Heights at the 9.
After an Arabian punt, Joe Spegal took a handoff from Cade Jones and went up the middle. Spegal made a move to the right and broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, and Delta led 6-0 with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
The teams did not score again in the half, although Delta was close. Spegal took a pitch to the right side, but the ball came free as he neared the goal line. The ball went through the end zone, giving Pendleton Heights possession at the 20.
Pendleton Heights had two chances in Delta territory, but Furrow was picked off inside the 20 with 3:40 left in the half, and Mats Klink missed a 33-yard field goal with just over a minute left.
Delta unofficially had 223 yards of offense while Pendleton Heights was held to 87 yards in the half.
Pendleton Heights had a chance to turn the game to start the third quarter as Alex Fuatavai fumbled the opening kickoff. Brandon Riggs recovered for the Arabians at the Eagles’ 15.
Pendleton Heights ran the ball four times, getting to just outside the 5 on fourth down but was just short of the first down and gave the ball back to Delta.
“We ran the ball four times, thinking we could grind it,” Broughton said. “We made some adjustments that we thought would help us get in the end zone with the run, but we came up a yard short.”
Pendleton Heights was in position to score again, but Furrow was picked off on a tipped ball at the Eagles’ 6. To make matters worse, Fuatavai ripped off a 54-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Delta chipped away, and Spegal burst up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-0 after the 2-point conversion was good.
Furrow was picked off again on the next possession as Fuatavai nabbed the pass at the Eagles’ 45 and returned it all the way to the Arabians’ 7 as Furrow shoved him out of bounds.
Cade Jones scored on a quarterback keeper to put Delta up 20-0 as the clock showed 11:53 to go in the final quarter.
After a penalty when the kickoff went out of bounds, Arabians returner Chandler Wilson fumbled, and the Eagles recovered.
Four plays later, Jones hit Jalen Robinson on a 16-yard touchdown pass to the left corner of the end zone for a 26-0 Eagles advantage.
Wilson made up for his fumble on the kickoff, however, as he raced to the Eagles’ 13.
Furrow found Noah Etchison on an inside slant from 7 yards out to give Pendleton Heights its first score of the night. The Arabians attempted the onside kick but could not recover, and Delta ran four minutes off the clock before turning it over on downs.
The Arabians were unable to get a first down and Delta took over, running out most of the remaining time before turning the ball over on downs with 41 seconds left.
Pendleton Heights was outgained 478 to 208, and Delta ran 20 more offensive plays than the Arabians. The Arabians turned the ball over five times, while Delta gave it up four times.
For Broughton, injuries to starters on the offensive line and youth up front make for some growing pains.
“Offensively, we are so young up front. We are starting two freshmen and a freshman at fullback,” Broughton said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some of those (injured) kids healthy and back in the lineup.”
Until that point, the Arabians will continue their brutal stretch of schedule, traveling to Yorktown next week.
“Our work is cut out for us,” Broughton said. “It’s going to be a struggle for us, but we just have to stay at it. We’re doing some things well at times, those young kids are going to get nothing but better”.
Pendleton Heights is now 2-4 overall and 0-4 in the HHC. Delta is 4-2 and 2-2 in the HHC.