Arlington punter Frankie Rosenbalm pinned Fort Calhoun deep inside its own 10-yard line Friday with less than 4 minutes left to go.
Nick Smith buried the Pioneers further on the very next play.
The Eagle defender picked off quarterback Ty Hallberg's pass and returned it 7 yards for a score, putting the finishing touches on AHS' 22-3 home victory in a battle of Washington County football teams. Coach Colter Mattson's squad improved to 2-5 with the win, while coach Adolph Shepardson's fell to 1-6.
“They ran that play, like, three times,” Smith said, noting the opportunities he'd had to pick off the pass earlier. “I was like, 'If (the QB) is going to throw it again, I'm just going to pick it off.' And I did.”
The pick-6 all but ended a frustrating night for Fort Calhoun.
“You've got to make plays on a Friday night and we didn't make plays,” Shepardson said. “We didn't make plays and Arlington did.”
The Pioneers' coach also complimented AHS quarterback Josh Miller, who finished with two touchdown passes after missing on one potential score early and another that went through Dustin Kirk's arms during the second quarter.
“I think its kind of being nervous at the beginning of the game getting those deep balls,” the receiver said of his miss. “You're not as focused as later.”
Later wound up being just minutes later as the Eagles earned a 6-0 lead with 2:53 before halftime. Miller bought time behind the line of scrimmage with his elusiveness and found Kirk on a 60-yard score. The junior made the catch and just barely avoided being taken down by FCHS defensive back Avery Quinlan.
Arlington held its 6-point advantage until halfway through the third quarter when a Pioneers drive ended with a 26-yard field goal from Jake Seina.
Still ahead 6-3, the Eagles responded with their second touchdown drive of the game. Kirk again made a big catch downfield before AHS scored on a four-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Miller again bought time to pass with his legs before finding Smith with his eyes and arm for a 14-3 lead just before the end of the third quarter.
“I ran to the corner,” the touchdown recipient said, detailing his route. “I was open, but Josh didn't see me. So, I ran inside a little bit and came back out.”
Smith continued with his description.
“Josh didn't see me still,” he said. “So, then, I ran up and the corner ran up with me, and so I ran on back and caught the ball.”
Clint Dierks and his Fort Calhoun teammates pieced together some productive running plays on the ensuing drive, but the Pioneers' possession ended with a turnover on downs at the Arlington 26-yard line. Their next two drives ended in interceptions — one by Smith for a score and another by Kirk.
“Hats off to Arlington, they played well, but I'm very disappointed in our effort,” Shepardson said.
FCHS was held without a touchdown for the first time this season in defeat.
The Eagles, meanwhile, got 142 receiving yards out of Kirk and 79 total from Jesse Thompson. Smith touched the ball twice, scoring twice.
“It means a lot,” Kirk said of the win. “We take whatever we can get. We've had a tough season, but I think that's paying off.”
“Basically, we just wanted to win,” Smith said of the key to the game. “So, we did whatever we could to get the win.”
Arlington next plays Friday at 2-5 Boys Town, while Fort Calhoun hosts 0-7 Omaha Concordia.