Vance catch

Big Foot running back Cole Vance didn’t score, but he led the team in both rushing and receiving in the Oct. 4 road loss to Evansville.

Big Foot might have had its toughest matchup of the season Oct. 4 when the Chiefs made a road trip to face Evansville.

The Blue Devils came into the game undefeated with a 6-0 record, ranked sixth in Division 3 coaches’ poll, and are the clear front-runners to claim the Rock Valley Conference championship this year.

As such, the vaunted Evansville group showed their strength, beating the Chiefs 40-14. It was not a horrible result for the Chiefs to lose to a team they were expected to fall to. But it also was not great.

“I didn’t think we played terribly, but we did not play nearly well enough to beat a really talented team,” head coach Mike Welden said.

Big Foot’s offense struggled early, with two interceptions and a fumble on its first three drives. After a three-and-out on the first Blue Devils drive, Evansville’s Matt Forster scored a pair of rushing touchdowns on the next two to give the team a 14-0 lead.

Another touchdown on the fourth drive of the game — this time a pass from quarterback Tyr Severson to receiver Sulley Geske — gave Evansville a 21-0 lead before the Chiefs were able to get on the board.

Receiver Jack Gillingham was the first Big Foot player to reach the end zone, scoring a minute and a half into the second quarter on a 10-yard rushing touchdown to cut the score to 21-7. That score held until halftime, as both offenses cooled off.

In the third quarter, the Blue Devils’ offense came back alive, as Severson threw a 39-yard touchdown to Forster, and Severson rushed for another score to go ahead 33-7.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, Evansville scored for the final time, as running back Mason Young punched in a 3-yard rushing score to make it a 40-7 lead.

Big Foot scored the last points of the game late in the fourth quarter, as running back John Rouse scored on a 3-yard run to complete the night’s scoring at 40-14.

The key to the Evansville win was the play of Forster, who had 203 rush yards and two scores plus 51 receiving yards and one touchdown, with two of those touchdowns coming from 30-plus yards out.

In particular, it was those long scores that did in the Chiefs.

“When it came down to it, they made way more big plays than we did,” Welden said. “We couldn’t really stop them unless they were turning the ball over. Credit to them.”

Despite not reaching the end zone, running back Cole Vance was the bright spot for the Chiefs’ offense, as he rushed for a team-leading 98 yards, as well as leading the team with 45 receiving yards.

With two weeks left in the year, Big Foot needs one win to clinch a guaranteed berth in the playoffs. However, even if they do not win either game, there is still a chance they make the cut with a 4-5 record.

As a result, while the Chiefs’ playoff fate does not exactly hang in the balance, the impending postseason is an exciting prospect for a group of seniors who have never played in the postseason because Big Foot missed the cut the past two seasons.

And while it is exciting for the players, it is also unknown territory for which the Big Foot coaches need to prepare the team.

“This group has never been through this situation, so we’re telling them what they have to do to get to the playoffs, and even if you qualify, how seeding works,” Welden said.

The Chiefs get their next shot to improve their resume on Oct. 11 when they host Brodhead/Juda in Walworth. The Cardinals’ 3-4 record is similar to Big Foot’s 4-3, so the game could be a close one, as matchups between the rivals typically are.

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