ELKHART — CJ Detweiler didn't expect the Goshen-Elkhart Central football game to come down to one or two plays on Friday.
Afterall, his RedHawks led 35-14 early in the fourth quarter and looked to be on their way to a convincining win.
But after a furious Blue Blazer rally cut the RedHawk lead to 35-28 with 5:33 still to play, Detweiler and the Goshen offense had to convert two critical fourth-down plays to keep Central at bay.
On the first – from his own 35 – Detweiler was able to get the Blue Blazer offensive line to jump offside on a fourth-and-1. Then with just over two minutes to play, with Goshen again facing a fourth-and-1from just outside midfield, Detweiler fought, received a push from behind by a teammate and gained 2 yards, which allowed the RedHawks to run out the clock and post the 35-28 win.
"Coach (Kyle) Park asked me if I thought we could make it both times and I was pretty confident that we could,'' Detweiler said. "I had a lot of confidence in the way our offensive line was playing that we could get the yardage we needed.''
Detweiler was outstanding for Goshen, completing 21-of-38 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Rummel Johnson. He also ran for a pair of scores, including a 23-yarder to open the scoring late in the first quarter.
"Honestly, I'm not totally sure what happened on that first touchdown,'' Detweiler said. "I got free for a short gain, then I got hit and lost the ball, but it went straight up in the air and it came down right in my arms, and thankfully I was able to complete the run for a score.''
But rather than cruising to their second win of the year, the RedHawks (2-0) were forced to battle thanks to a scrappy Central team that faced a 21-point deficit, but roared back behind senior quarterback Ross Kirkton.
First, Kirkton threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Desmond Johnson that cut the lead to 14. Johnson caught the ball over the middle, broke a tackle and outraced a would-be tackler to the end zone.
After a three-and-out by Goshen, Kirkton led the Blazers (0-2) on a five-play, 52-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard TD pass to Adrean Sims with 5:33 to play.
"I loved the fight in our kids, but we have to find a way to start the games better and not have to keep trying to battle back in the second half,'' Central coach Levon Johnson said. "You could feel the sense of urgency in the fourth quarter, but that's something we have to get right from the start.''
Goshen halfback Jeff Stoll carried the ball 24 times for 141 yards and a touchdown, while also kicking a field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Blazer sophomore Ricky Rocha wasn't far behind, rushing for 108 yards and a pair of scores, while Kirkton was 15-of-29 for 257 yards and the two TDs.
"We're happy to be 2-0, but we have some work to do to get some things fixed,'' Park said. "I thought our offense was solid tonight, especially in the first half. Then we made the plays we had to in the fourth quarter to get the win. We'll take it and come back to Elkhart again next week (to play Memorial) and try to win again.''
GOSHEN 35, ELKHART CENTRAL 28
Goshen 6 13 6 10 — 35
Central 7 0 7 14 — 28
G — C.J. Detweiler 23 run, (kick failed); 3:51.
C — Ricky Rocha 10 run, (Jacob Kaiser kick); 7:47.
G — Rummel Johnson 9 pass from Detweiler, (pass failed); 5:18.
G — Johnson 9 pass from Deweiler (pass failed); 2:52.
G — Jeff Stoll 14 run, (Stoll kick); 9:27
C — Rocha 8 runc (Kaiser kick); 2:02.
G — Stoll 22 field goal; 11:32
C — Desmond Johnson 80 pass from Ross Kirkton, (Kaiser kick); 8:23.
C — Adrean Sims 25 pass from Kirkton, (Kaiser kick); 5:33.
Rush yards 217 128
Pass yards 218 257
Total yards 435 385
First Downs 20 13
Penalty yards 55 35
Fumb-lost 1-0 0-0
Intercepted 0 1
Goshen: Rushing — Jeff Stoll 21-141, CJ Detweiler 11-51, Dylan Back 5-25. Passing — Detweiler 21-28-218. Receiving — Rummel Johnson 6-53. Josuel Sanchez 5-48, Brandon Holley 2-56, Austin Bontrager 2-20. Interception: Back.
Central: Rushing — Ricky Rocha 26-108, Ross Kirkton 6-20. Passing — Kirkton 15-29-257 (1 int). Receiving — Desmond Johnson 5-126.