GOSHEN — A stud halfback sets two rushing records, a team sets another record for running the ball, yet the most important play is an improvised punt?
It’ll go down in the statistic books as a 15-yard penalty, but Eddie Coddington’s quick thinking steered Elkhart Central out of potential disaster and spurred a 35-21 high school football playoff victory over Goshen on Friday, Nov. 1.
“I don’t think he realizes how huge that is,” Blue Blazer coach Levon Johnson said of the play. “We’ll tell him, but I still don’t think he’ll understand.”
Joe Phillips ran for two ECHS records — 305 yards and 44 carries — while the Blazer finished with 438 on the ground. Phillips and Keion Johnson each scored two touchdowns.
But a failed punt changed the course of the contest.
With the Blazers leading Goshen 14-7 late in the second quarter, Coddington, a sophomore who came to the team from the boys soccer squad, made a game-changing play after a punt snap sailed over his head.
Coddington, who kicks with his right leg, raced inside the ECHS 15 to field the ball and after scrambling to his left, scooped up the ball and managed to get off a running kick with his left foot. A Goshen defender chasing the play hit the Blazer after the punt.
Out flew a flag, one of 21 dropped in the contest.
Instead of the Redskins having the ball — and momentum — at around the Central 30, the Blazers benefitted from a 15-yard penalty, a first down and took the ball at the Goshen 38. Seven plays later, Johnson dove in from the 1 on the final snap of the half to cap a 13-play, 87-yard possession.
What could have been a 14-all game at half ended with the Blazers up 21-7.
“Eddie’s been huge for us all year,” Johnson said. “He’s a kid who never missed a practice ... once he committed to (football) this summer, he was there. He’s a competitor ... he was going to do whatever he needed to do to make sure that didn’t end up disastrous.”
And the play helped put the final puncuation mark on a disappointing 0-10 season for Goshen.
“There’s the thing ... it’s like the whole season. One play here and one play there,” said GHS coach Mike Cheviron.
The shift in game epitomized the season for the Skins, which logged the school’s second winless season in the last 10 years.
“It makes a big difference because that’s what turns the tide. And in high school kids, it’s all about emotion,” Cheviron said. “I thought we had it several times this season and I thought we had it tonight, too.”
Phillips, though, fueled Central’s momentum and buried the Skins with his slashing, twirling runs in and out of the line of scrimmage, averging 7.3 runs per attempt.
Phillips, a 5-foot-6, 145-pound junior, hit Goshen with a 28-yard TD pass and a 1-yard run while Johnson added two runs for the Blazers, who improved to 4-6. They’ll welcome 8-2 Concord to Rice Field on Nov. 8 in a sectional final.
The Minutemen will have to find a way to corral Phillips.
“Joe is special. He’s a kid who still has not taken that big hit because he gets out of the way,” Johnson said. “He can put his foot in the ground and change directions a slight bit enough to get out of the way when he gets hit.” “We had to stunt and blitz the world to stop (Phillips). He did a great job,” Cheviron said. “He’s a tough-nut running back. I thought he really worked hard for his yards. He falls forward every time and that’s what you want in a high school running back.”
Following the game, after all the handshakes, high-fives and pats on the back, Phillips slowly tried to pull the tape off his hands.
“Actually, I’m not that tired ... I am tired mentally,” said Phillips, who gained plenty of his yardage after first contact. “Coach Johnson and I worked on that this week, covering up the ball and keeping my hips lower even though I’m small, taking the first initiial contact, trying to spin and move my legs more.
“Every time I was getting hit, I kept moving my legs,” he said. “I just stayed behind my line, they kept pushing and a lot of creases kept opening up.”
Cameron Kline led Goshen with two TD passes to Brady Bechtel and 67 rushing yards.
“I’m proud of our kids. I thought they fought well,” Cheviron said. “That’s the story of the season.”
Central 35, Goshen 21
Scoring by Quarters
Central 14 7 7 7 — 35
Goshen 0 7 7 7 — 21
School — Scoring Play
EC — Keion Johnson 9 run; Cosmo Disori kick, 6:58.
EC — Joe Phillips 28 run; Disori kick, 3:10.
G — Brady Bechtel 28 pass from Cameron Kline; Kline kick, 6:31.
EC — Johnson 1 run; Disori kick, :00.
EC — Phillips 1 run; Disori kick, 8:06.
G — Bechtel 16 pass from Kline; Kline kick, 1:29.
EC — Antwaan Allen 5 run; Disori kick, 9:16.
G — John Trenshaw 14 run; Kline kick, 4:31.
Officials: Jeff Dunham, Joe Schrader, Gary Roberts, Mike Otolski, Piyush Ranade.
Team Statistics Ce Go
Net yards rushing 426 112
Net yards passing 28 115
Total Yards 454 227
First Downs 23 14
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties 14-124 7-60
Central: Rushing — Joe Phillips 44-305, Keion Johnson 10-61. Passing — Antwaan Allen 7-9-55 (1 int.). Receiving — Blake Faus 4-28, Joe Phillips 1-28. Interception — Vince Lucchese.
Goshen: Rushing — Cameron Kline 15-67. Passing — Kline 12-23-115 (1 int.). Receiving — Brady Bechtel 7-65. Interceptions — Chase Goodman.