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Seneca finishes strong late-season run with 42-6 win over rival Dwight

Fighting Irish close regular season with 4-5 record

DWIGHT – If your football team can’t finish its season in the playoffs, the next best thing is finishing the season strong.

The Seneca Fighting Irish most certainly did that, winning four of their final six games capped off by Friday night’s 42-6 Vermilion Valley Football Alliance North victory at rival Dwight. Seneca finished the regular season 4-5 after an 0-3 start.

“My goal was to get these guys better every day, and I think they’ve done that,” Seneca head coach Terry Maxwell said. “That’s our senior leadership, that’s our buy-in, that’s these guys stepping up and growing and developing.

“There’s just been some really good stuff this season.”

Dwight – which played the Irish tough in the second half after going into the locker room down 28-0 – finished the season 1-8 and will lose a large crop of 14 seniors.

The Fighting Irish outgained the Trojans, 390-205, in yards from scrimmage, characteristically doing the majority of that damage – 370 yards – on the ground. Thirteen different Seneca players carried the ball, led by Collin Wright’s seven carries for 64 yards (including a 32-yard touchdown), quarterback Nathan Grant’s five carries for 54 yards (24-yard touchdown), Braden Ellis’ four carries for 41 yards, Jaden Casey’s late-game 18-yard TD, Brock Moore’s team-high 77 yards on four carries (40-yard and 35-yard touchdowns) and Dominick Griffin’s nine carries for 38 yards (5-yard touchdown).

The offensive line – Brady Barla, Matt Dillon, Chris Peura, Kyle Hamby, Aiden Wood and Patrick Griffin – led the way, with Grant completing two passes for 20 yards, including a 14-yarder to Carter Ellis.

“Rivalry week with Dwight, it’s always a hard-fought, competitive game,” said Ellis, one of nine seniors on the Irish roster. “Even though we know we’re short of the postseason, to be able to come out and battle and fight and play the way we did one last time against a rival like that, it’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t have rather played anyone else anywhere else.”

“Mainly [our focus was] just finishing the season and trying to send this senior group out with a win,” said Grant, a sophomore. “But now we’re focusing on this offseason and getting ready for the season ahead.”

The Irish scored on their first four possessions to take control. Dwight’s defense got two stops in the third quarter and scored its lone touchdown of the game – a 17-yard connection from QB Conner Telford to Jack Duffy.

“We definitely played a better second half,” Trojans coach Luke Standiford said, “and we really haven’t been a second-half team all year. In fact, we usually come out flat. I told the guys this was the best football game that we’ve put together all year on both sides of the ball, and even though the scoreboard didn’t really show it, they played hard. We’re doing a lot of good things.

“It was good to see that in the last game of the season.”

Telford finished 7-of-15 for 92 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, held in check by a Seneca defense led by Asher Hamby (interception, pass defended), Grant (interception), Kysen Klinker (fumble recovery, tackle for loss), Wright (fumble recovery), Carter Ellis (two TFLs), Dillon (two TFLs), Brock Moore (QB sack) and Lane Provance (QB sack).

Austin Burkhardt (nine carries for 36 yards), Dillon Sarff (14 carries for 35 yards) and Telford on keepers (14 carries for 28 yards) led Dwight’s rushing attack, while Kaleb Duden (three receptions for 55 yards) was the Trojans’ top pass-catcher.

Paxton Giertz was 4-of-5 on extra point kicks for Seneca.