AMBOY — It came down to another fourth down conversion for the Hall Red Devils. So, Randy Tieman put the ball in the hands of his quarterback.
Faced with a 4th-and-2 with 58 seconds left, Hall quarterback Taggart Venegas connected with Collin Aimone for a 41-yard reception, setting up a five-yard touchdown run by Aaron Kerr on the next play, and giving Hall a thrilling 28-21 victory over Amboy at the Harbor on Friday night.
Venegas rolled right on the decisive play with his first read being Zach Urbanski towards the sidelines. Instead, Aimone was left wide open in the middle of the field.
“We had two yards, I was either going to run or pass,” said Venegas. “The line gave me some time, which was excellent on that roll-out, and I just looked up and there was Aimone and he got the catch and converted.”
Aimone caught the ball at the 15 and gained 10 more yards after the catch. Kerr, who scored the game-winning two-point conversion last week, went off tackle and dragged an Amboy defender into the endzone for the game-winning score with 24 seconds left.
“It was all the linemen,” said Kerr, who is also battling an ankle injury. “They got a big push, I have to give it all to them.”
The Red Devils (2-1) finished the game 4-for-6 on fourth down conversions. They also converted a 4th-and-3 last week in the final two minutes against Erie-Prophetstown, which led them to a victory.
Their first score on Friday night came on a 4th-and-5 when Venegas hit Jake Byczynski for an 11-yard score on their first possession of the game.
Venegas was just heating up at that point, as he finished the first half going 11-for-19 for 112 yards. He hooked up with Byczynski in the second quarter as well for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
“We thought after seeing them on film we could have some success throwing the ball and we did in the first half,” said Tieman.
Despite the success through the air, a dropped touchdown pass in the second quarter and then fumbles on consecutive possessions in the second half gave Amboy (1-2) an opportunity to stay within striking distance.
The Red Devils second fumble, a dropped ball on a punt return, gave Amboy the ball back at the Hall 15-yard line. Four plays later, Amboy’s workhorse running back Jason Bontz (36 carries, 150 yards) scored from a yard out to tie the game at 14 each.
Hall would answer on their next drive with a one-yard score by Kerr. However, Amboy would answer again.
Going back to their running duo of Bontz and Chris Jones, they went on 15-yard drive that started in the third quarter and ended with a one-yard score from quarterback Liam Ohlendorf with 7:27 remaining in the fourth.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Amboy coach Gary Jones. “I thought our offense played better than it has in the previous two games. Defensively, even though we got beat and they put up 28 points, I thought we played pretty well.”
After losing by 21 points to Bureau Valley in week one, Hall has bounced back with two close wins. Tieman thinks his team is starting to believe in themselves again.
“This senior group didn’t lose a football game until last year,” said Tieman. “I think they lost a little bit of their swagger. We told them to trust us and do what we were telling them. Now, I think they really want to prove a lot of people wrong.”
• Amboy won the sophomore contest 26-6.