TUSCOLA, TX — From the opening kickoff in the first half, Wall’s defense dominated and left no doubt that they are one of the best units in all of Texas.
It did not take long for the Wall Hawk defense to prove why they should be feared after booting the opening kickoff into the end zone. Jim Ned got things started on its own 25. and they stuffed three straight runs to Xavier Wishert with Joe Walker and Josh Balcomb leading the way.
Jim Ned’s punt went off the side of its kicker’s foot and gave the Hawks great field position at the Ned 45. The first play went to Chase Rios for two yards. Quarterback Mason Fuchs followed it up with a 7 yard run on an option keeper.
On 3rd and 1, something went wrong in the backfield, and Kade Kimmel for Jim Ned picked up a missed handoff and took off for the end zone.
Kye Herbert saved a sure touchdown by chasing Kimmel down at the Wall 17. Quarterback Dylan Martin found wide out Zach Henderson and Wishert for a combined 5 yards on second and third down after a loss of one on first. Wall’s tremendous front line then batted down the fourth down pass at the line of scrimmage.
After two defensive stops, Wall’s offense started clicking. Fuchs found Connor Dierschke on an inside hook route to convert on 3rd and 5 from their 20. A false start and a loss of run on first down made it 2nd and 16, but Fuchs found a streaking Dierschke along the right sideline for a momentum changing 51 yard gain.
The next play, Rios cut the ball back across the field for 15 yards, and Wall was at the 13. A run for no gain, two false starts, and an incompletion later, it looked like the Indian defense would hold. On 3rd and 19, however, Fuchs threw it up to 6’3” Dierschke in the back right corner of the end zone for six. 7-0 Wall with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
The teams traded three and outs before Jim Ned started to get things going on offense. Starting at their 35, Jim Ned moved the ball decently with short runs and passes, but Wall penalties are what kept the drive going.
On 3rd and 7 from the Wall 44, Martin threw a desperation heave to Cade Ford that fell harmlessly to the ground. In the backfield, though, the referees called Drew Morrison for a late hit on the quarterback that moved the chains.
Wall’s defense stayed strong and forced a 3rd and 13. This time, Martin overthrew a pass over the middle to Henderson, but senior DB Colton Diebitsch was called for pass interference. Wishert picked up 3 hard-fought yards on first and second down, and the Indians had another 3rd down.
Martin eyed Ford in the left corner of the end zone, but the pass sailed high. They were bailed out for a third time when Wall’s Jake Andrews was called for pass interference.
On 1st and goal from the 2, Wishert lined up for a direct snap, but senior defensive lineman Joe Walker met him in the backfield for a nine yard loss. On the next play, Martin connected with Henderson who out-jumped a Wall cornerback for an impressive touchdown on a fade route. 7-7 with 4:49 remaining in the half.
Wall began its next possession on the 25 yard line and looked to take the lead before halftime. A Rios run and short pass to Grady McCrea made it 3rd and 8 before Fuchs found Dierschke at the sticks for a first down. The drive stalled, however, and Wall was forced to punt on 4th and 7.
Momentum quickly jumped back to Wall when Reece Horton’s punt was whiffed by the Jim Ned returner. The Hawks recovered it at the Ned 25 with just under two minutes in the half. They picked up nine and half yards on the next three plays to force 4th and inches.
Fuchs promptly took a keeper to the five yard line. The senior then scrambled around and found a wide open Kye Herbert in the end zone to take the lead with 12 seconds left.
14-7 Wall at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Wall’s strategy was clear: control the clock offensively and let the defense win the game.
The teams traded punts until Wall’s second possession of the half. A face mask penalty by Jim Ned on first down moved the ball to the 35, and Chase Rios followed it up with a 14 yard scamper to the 49. Fuchs picked up 9 on the next play.
The Indian fans stood up and got rowdy after their defense popped Chase Rios after a long run and sent the ball flying. Luckily for them, a Jim Ned defender fell on the ball inches before it rolled out of bounds.
It looked like they would tie the game up after a pass to Cy Noland and run by Wishert had them at the Wall 14.
Wall’s Morrison and Bryson Ballard would have none of that, though, and tackled Martin in the backfield for a four yard loss. The Hawk secondary clamped up, as well, and Martin’s passes on 3rd and 4th down fell incomplete.
Wall punted again, but its defense was there to get it right back. On first down, linebacker James Fore got immediate pressure on the quarterback and forced a bad throw as he made the tackle. On second down, a pass to an open Harwell was broken hit by a huge hit by Diebitsch on the sideline. Finally, on second down, junior Jake Andrews stole the ball from Ford as they both fell to the ground on a deep throw for the interception.
Jim Ned was able to hold Wall on the next drive and forced a punt to get the ball back, but could not get anything past Craig Slaughter’s defense.
This time, a Joe Walker and Stuart Bumann sack stopped the Indians in their tracks.
Jim Ned’s final drive of the game started at their 20 with 6:30 left in the fourth. All they would get was one yard on a Wishert run and two incompletions.
The only successful drive for Wall came at the perfect time. With 5:47 to play, Fuchs orchestrated a spirit crushing possession. He and Rios moved the chains methodically until they found themselves in a 4th and inches with 2:37 left.
Fuchs easily picked it up on a sneak.
Jim Ned called its last timeout on 3rd and 3 with 2:01 remaining. Rios picked it up with a nice run to the 13 and that would be the game.
Fuchs kneed it out and Wall improved to 7-0 with the 14-7 win.
Wall returns home next week to face fellow unbeaten Eastland next week for what will likely decide the district champion.
Jim Ned looks to regroup against Clyde.
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.