Zionsville's Ryan Veit catches an interception in the end zone during the Eagles' football game with Hamilton Southeastern Friday, Sept. 9, at the RCA Dome.

Debbie Beigh/For The Times Sentinel
Zionsville Times Sentinel

INDIANAPOLIS — The Friday, Sept. 9, match up between the Zionsville Eagles (2-2) and the Hamilton Southeastern Royals (4-0) was appropriately named, as the two programs took part in the first game of the seventh annual Peyback Classic at the RCA Dome.

After Zionsville defeated Southeastern last season, Southeastern got its pay back Friday night as it stopped a two-point conversion at the end of the fourth-quarter to defeat Zionsville, 17-15. ESPN has already called the game an instant classic.

“This is typical, it seems to happen every year,” said Zionsville head coach Larry McWhorter of the pressure-packed finish. “We both knew they made a good pick for this game when they asked us to participate back in the spring.”

The Eagles defense was especially stout in the first half, not giving up a first down until the Royals’ first drive of the second half.

“I thought we got out-played, out-hit, and out-coached in the first half,” Hamilton Southeastern head coach Rob Cutter said.

Zionsville’s offense had some success, but as Cutter said after the game his defense did well with the “bend but don’t break” philosophy. The Eagles had a pair of long, time-consuming drives deep into the Royals’ red zone, but only had a 22-yard field goal by senior Tyler Reimer to show for their efforts.

Hamilton Southeastern had one final chance before the break, but this time it was the Eagles’ senior Ryan Veit leaping for the interception at the goal line to slam the door again and preserve their 3-0 lead at the midway point.

Coming out for the second half, Zionsville methodically moved the ball deep into Royals territory, but again settled for a 40-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right. The drive stalled when the Eagles were called for a holding penalty on a second down play that would have resulted in a touchdown.

The Southeastern offense finally found a rhythm on its first possession of the third quarter. Running back Marcus Spann who lead the way breaking off a 28-yard run around the right end and then taking a simple swing pass 14 yards into Eagle territory. Seven plays later Southeastern junior quarterback Brandon Kiel rolled left and found senior wideout Josh Arnold in the back of the end zone for the six-yard touchdown to break the shut out. The extra point gave the Royals their first lead, 7-3, with 44 seconds left in the third.

Zionsville immediately went right back to the play that produced the “called back” score on their previous drive. The play resulted in a touchdown as senior Jon Pavey ran right past the defender. It was a one-play, 84-yard connection that allowed the Eagles to regain the lead. Reimer missed the extra point, but that still gave Zionsville a 9-7 advantage.

Nate Powers took the ensuing kickoff 52 yards across midfield, giving Southeastern its best field position of the night. Sophomore Michael Stollmeyer knocked home a 33-yard field goal that produced the third lead change in less than four minutes at 10-9.

With less than eight minutes to play the Royals shut down the Zionsville offense near midfield, stuffing a fake punt run that again gave Southeastern great field position.

It was a quick six-play, 57-yard drive that senior Josh Powers finished with a three-yard score off the right side. Stollmeyer converted the extra point to make it 17-9.

Zionsville got the ball back with 5:06 left in the game and needed all but two seconds of that time to move down the field and score.

The drive ended with Reimer scrambling left and running from the blitz before firing back across the field. Pavey emerged from the crowd to pull in the jump ball in the end zone with two seconds to play.

While the touchdown seemed a huge feat, the Zionsville offense wasn’t done as it still had to make up for the earlier missed extra point. On the two-point try Reimer had his running back open in the flat, but a blitz from the outside got there too quick and the pass landed harmlessly on the turf.

“On the two-point try we had the right play called, we just missed an assignment,” McWhorter said. “We play hard, but we need to cut down our mistakes.”

Zionsville looks to bounce back next week as they host a 3-1 Westfield, who comes off a win against Brownsburg.

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