STERLING – A wild fourth quarter saw Sterling come back from a 15-point deficit, Luis Diaz boot a game-winning field goal, and Jason Farnham Jr. slam the door on a Galesburg comeback bid with a strip sack as Sterling beat the Silver Streaks 24-21 on Friday at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
The Diaz field goal, from 34 yards out, capped off a game-winning 16-play drive for the Warriors.
That was the Warriors’ third score of the quarter to erase a 21-6 Galesburg lead.
“With coach [Jon] Schlemmer we had a great talk at half and we bounced back,” Sterling running back Antonio Tablante said. “We just listened to what coach said and we followed. We looked back at our plays and stuck with it. We knew it wasn’t over.”
Tablante scored a pair of touchdowns, one from 3 yards out and the other on a 53-yard sprint up the middle.
Galesburg had a chance to answer in the final minutes. Amarie Richardson took the kickoff following Diaz’s field goal back to the Sterling 47 to set up the Streaks with 1:39 left. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Farnham sacked Galesburg quarterback Tristan Legate and forced a fumble, which Lance Wren picked up.
“I just knew we had to go out there and finish it off,” Farnham said. “We were playing defense strong all night, but we knew that we had to go out there and finish it off.”
The last 13 minutes, 50 seconds of the game saw Sterling put together scoring drives of 67, 53 and 43 yards while Galesburg ran six offensive plays, lost 10 yards, and the Sterling defense came up with the game-clinching fumble recovery and a Carter Ryan interception.
It was the second week in a row Sterling found itself trailing late, but with the ball in enemy territory with a chance to change that. In Week 2 against Montini, back-to-back sacks on third and fourth downs cost the Warriors in a nonconference loss. In the Western Big 6 opener against Galesburg, the Warriors were able to finish it off.
“We talk about the nonconference schedule coming into the Big 6, and last week we were out here talking and I thought we played really hard and played really good against a really good team,” Schlemmer said. “We always talk about you have to learn from a loss. I think we did. I don’t know if we win this game without last week. ... I feel last week set us up for the big games we’re going to have in this league.”
Ryan’s interception set the stage for Sterling’s game-winning drive. The grab gave the Warriors the ball at their own 40, and Sterling marched down the field, converting two third-down plays and a fourth down to set up first-and-goal at the Galesburg 3 with just over two minutes to play.
But a bad snap on first-and-goal set the Warriors back at the 17. On the next play, Colt Adams tried a fade for Ryan in the corner of the end zone, but Ryan was ruled out of bounds. After another incomplete pass, and an exchange of penalties, Diaz came out to boot the game winner.
The 18-point rally started late in the third quarter, when the Golden Warriors mounted an 11-play, 67-yard drive. Tablante capped it off by pushing his way into the end zone from 3 yards out, and Adams added the two-point conversion by pushing his way into the end zone.
After Galesburg went three-and-out, Sterling got the ball back near midfield and Tablante burst up the middle for a 53-yard score on the first play of the drive.
“I just followed my holes,” he said. “After talking through half, we found out I needed to go through the A gap, and that’s what I did. I listened to my coaches, and without my coaches telling me that, I would have never had that.”
The one bright spot of the first half for Sterling was Ryan. The senior wideout was sidelined with a foot injury through the preseason and the Warriors’ nonconference games against Lake Villa Lakes and Montini to open the season. On Sterling’s first drive Friday, on the third play of the game, Ryan hauled in a pass from Garrett Polson for a 36-yard touchdown to put the Warriors ahead.
But Sterling (2-1, 1-0 WB6), despite a couple of promising drives later in the half, could not add any more points. An 11-play drive was stopped by a strip sack which Galesburg’s Aaron Carl returned for a touchdown, the PAT putting the Silver Streaks in front 7-6. Late in the second quarter, the Warriors put together a 13-play drive, reaching the Galesburg 31 before Kannon Kleine intercepted a pass.
Galesburg (0-3, 0-1 WB6), meanwhile, struggled on offense with its first two drives, gaining a total of seven yards, all on the ground as Legate’s first two passes were incomplete. The first drive saw a third-down pass over the top from Legate to Dre Egipciaco bounce off the receiver’s hands after he had gotten behind the Sterling secondary.
Things started to click for Galesburg’s offense in the second quarter. The Streaks launched an eight-play, 71-yard drive to open the quarter capped off by a touchdown pass from Legate to Dre Egipciaco with 7:00 left in the half. The first play of that drive, a 15-yard pass from Legate to Egipciaco, was Galesburg’s first first down of the game.
Galesburg had another drive late in the half following Kleine’s interception, getting to the Warriors’ 31 before Tyree Kelly intercepted a Hail Mary at the goal line as time expired.
Galesburg also had a prime opportunity in the first quarter when Nolan Carl blocked a punt to set the Silver Streaks up at the Sterling 32, but AJ Kested intercepted Legate two plays later after the Warriors’ defensive front had flushed the Galesburg quarterback from the pocket and the right-handed junior tried to throw back to his right while on the run.
Both offenses struggled for most of the third quarter, with punts booming in both directions. Galesburg finally took over at midfield with just under five minutes to play in the third and started moving the ball. Legate gained 14 on a scramble to his left, and Cameron Aguirre, lining up in wishbone, gained another first down. Richardson eventually capped that drive off with an 8-yard score with 1:55 left in the quarter to make it 21-6 before Sterling mounted its comeback.
“The first three quarters is what I see all the time from my team,” Galesburg coach Derrek Blackwell said. “Those guys play hard, they play physical, they play fast. We’ve just got to find ways to keep them playing that way throughout the course of the game.”
Legate was 5-for-11 passing with a touchdown and three interceptions. He had 41 passing yards, 26 of which went to Dre Egipciaco. Alex Egipciaco led the Streaks with 18 carries for 62 yards.
Tablante had 25 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns for Sterling. Ryan hauled in six catches for 92 yards. Adams, in his first game as part of the quarterbacking platoon, was 4-for-7 for 46 yards. Polson was 6-of-12 for 66 yards.