In a game that featured an enormous amount of offense, it was some key defensive plays that helped Southeast of Saline escape its county rivals Friday night.
The Trojans forced four turnovers, with three of them leading directly to touchdowns in a 44-41 come-from-behind win over Sacred Heart at Graves Family Sports Complex.
Southeast scored two touchdowns in a span of 38 seconds in the first half, and another two touchdowns only 19 seconds apart in the fourth quarter to come away with the win.
The Trojans, coming off a pair of one-possession losses the past two weeks, improve to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the North Central Activities Association. With its third consecutive loss, Sacred Heart falls to 1-3, 1-3.
"It was a gritty win," Southeast coach Mitch Gebhardt said. "I feel like this is a gritty group and the last few weeks has tested our perseverance.
"I felt like the kids several times rose to the occasion."
"This is huge," Southeast senior Grant Tillberg said. "We got to beat our rivals and our goal each week is to go 1-0.
"Now we have to come back and do it again next week."
The Knights led 34-22 late in the third quarter after a David Anderson 1-yard keeper, but Southeast answered quickly with an 87-yard kickoff return by Damon Douglas that made it 34-30 with 22 seconds to play in the third.
Sacred Heart had three possessions in the fourth quarter with a chance to add to that lead, but got only one first down on those three possessions and never advanced inside the Southeast 30.
The Trojans regained the lead on a Hunter White 3-yard run with 2:34 to play. Southeast junior Rudy Rodriguez came up with an interception over the middle on the Knights next possession, and on the very next play White went 34 yards for another Trojan touchdown.
"It was an up and down game throughout," Rodriguez said. "We were down 12 but we had perseverance and pulled through in the end.
"People made plays and we pulled through."
Down 44-34, Sacred Heart gave itself a shot when Jacob Faerber took a short screen pass and went 80 yards for the score. Now down by three with 1:57 to play, the Knights could not recover the onside kick attempt and Southeast was able to run out the clock.
"Our guys didn't quit," Sacred Heart coach Garrett Galanski said. "They fought to the last whistle.
"They came out and competed and did that in all facets of the game."
"Give a lot of credit to Sacred Heart," Gebhardt said. "After we took the lead at half, they came back and took the lead from us. They've got a good solid group."
It was a wild first half that saw Southeast take an early lead, Sacred Heart score three unanswered touchdowns and the Trojans get in the end zone twice in the final 66 seconds of the half to regain the lead.
Tillberg's 15-yard touchdown reception and a two-point conversion run by White put the Trojans up 8-0.
Sacred Heart had touchdown passes from Anderson to Charlie Skidmore on three consecutive possessions, or more accurately, on three consecutive offensive plays.
Anderson found Skidmore on the right sideline for a 53-yard catch-and-run score late in the first quarter. On the very first play of the next possession, Skidmore got behind the defense and Anderson hit him in stride for a 68-yard score to put the Knights in front.
After a Southeast turnover at its own 20, it was Anderson to Skidmore again. This time the play was well defended, but Skidmore went up and made a one-handed catch in the end zone. Skidmore also added the extra-point kick to make it 21-8 Knights.
Two Sacred Heart turnovers in the final two minutes of the half led to two Trojan touchdowns. White's 2-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by Damon Douglas cut the lead to 21-16.
When the Knights fumbled near midfield, it took the Trojans only two plays to cover 52 yards. White found Tillberg for 30 yards on the first play, then connected with Raef Boley for a 22-yard touchdown reception with 28 seconds to play before halftime and a 22-21 Southeast lead.
Skidmore had a fourth touchdown reception in the third quarter, this time on a pass from Faerber. Skidmore finished with six catches for 168 yards, Faerber had six catches for 124 and Anderson threw for 368 yards.
White's totals included 195 yards rushing on 37 carries and 208 yards passing. Tillberg had six catches for 73 yards.