Improbable comeback spices up a rivalry

Down 26-0, Eastview rallies to beat AV

Eastview running back Will Rains gained 186 yards in helping his team to a come-from-behind 29-26 victory over Apple Valley on Friday night. Photo by Rick Orndorf

For a half, Eastview played as if it wanted nothing to do with the new trophy created for its football game against Apple Valley.

But once the game was over, and after seemingly every Lightning player had his picture taken with the trophy, it became clear just how much it meant. When Apple Valley mayor Mary Hamann-Roland and School District 196 superintendent Jane Berenz handed the Apple trophy to Eastview’s players following their 29-26 victory Friday night, it signaled that the reboot of the football rivalry had succeeded as the Lightning celebrated with it as it might with a playoff trophy.

Coaches, administrators and boosters at both schools had spent months trying to cast the rivalry as one that was spirited on the field and respectful off it. The teams gathered for a barbecue dinner earlier in the week and the schools combined to raise $5,500 for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.

“It was a great week. That’s easy for us to say because we won,” Eastview coach Kelly Sherwin said. “But both schools should be proud. It’s nice to be part of something that goes beyond football.”

As for the game, it came close to filling the stands at Apple Valley High School on a cold, windy night. Apple Valley raced to a 26-0 lead early in the third quarter, only to watch Eastview score the game’s last four touchdowns –and final 29 points.

The four touchdowns in less than 11 minutes completed what Sherwin said is probably the biggest comeback in Eastview football history. A 28-yard interception return by junior defensive back Jahkye McClarron with 10:59 remaining put the Lightning in the lead.

It was a turnaround in all phases for Eastview, not just on the scoreboard. The Lightning helped put itself in a 20-0 hole at halftime with three lost fumbles, a 5-yard punt and penalties on three consecutive plays during Apple Valley’s first scoring drive.

The deficit grew to 26-0 when Apple Valley’s Dom McDew-Stauffer broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter. At that point, few were anticipating a Lightning rally.

Except Eastview’s players and coaches, apparently.

Henry McIsaac caught a short pass from quarterback Mark Dwyer, eluded a couple of tacklers and sprinted for a 58-yard touchdown for Eastview’s first score.

“The only thing I was thinking about was, ‘Please, don’t catch me from behind,’ ” said McIsaac, a wide grin spreading across his face. “But when we got into the huddle (for the conversion attempt) we knew we were still in the game. We were telling each other, ‘One (touchdown) down, four to go.’ ”

With Apple Valley failing to add conversions after two of its scores, it turned out that Eastview needed only three more touchdowns to take the lead. Dwyer threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ben Oberfeld about midway through the third quarter. Just before the third quarter ended, sophomore running back Will Rains scored on a 6-yard run.

The power running of Rains, who rushed 37 times for 186 yards, was instrumental in Eastview’s second-half takeover.

Early in the fourth quarter, Apple Valley faced third and 16 at its 11-yard line. Quarterback Tommy Singer targeted a receiver near the sideline and just beyond the first-down stake.

But the intended receiver slipped and fell. McClarron remained upright, grabbed the ball and returned it for the go-ahead touchdown.

Apple Valley moved the ball into Eastview’s side of the field twice more, but each time lost the ball on downs.

“Hats off to our defense,” Sherwin said. “We put them in some bad situations in the first half, but they never broke. They held Apple Valley to some three-and-outs in the second half and scored a touchdown.”

Apple Valley scored on its first two possessions. McDew-Stauffer pushed it over from the 1 after a short punt gave the Eagles the ball at the Eastview 35. Moments later, the Eagles’ David Johnson recovered a fumble at the Eastview 29. Johnson went in on offense a few plays after that and scored on a 4-yard run.

It was 20-0 in the second quarter after Singer connected with Joey Skora on a 38-yard touchdown pass on fourth and eight.

McDew-Stauffer rushed for 111 yards and Skora had 88 receiving yards, but the Eagles, who were using several players on both offense and defense, couldn’t hold on.

“The coaches always tell us about how games are won in the weight room,” McIsaac said, “and I think we were the more physical team tonight.”

By the time the night ended, each team was 4-2 overall and chasing South Suburban Conference leaders Lakeville North and Prior Lake. The leaders were 4-1 in league play, while Apple Valley is 4-2 in the conference and Eastview is 3-2.

Eastview closes its regular season with road games at Prior Lake (Oct. 12) and Bloomington Kennedy (Oct. 17). Apple Valley is on the road at Burnsville on Oct. 12 and plays at Eagan on Oct. 17.

While the record shows it’s Eastview’s fifth consecutive victory over Apple Valley, Friday’s game also signified that it’s a football rivalry again.

“Apple Valley has a lot of good, young players,” Sherwin said. “I think they’re back.”