HEIDELBERG, Germany - The visiting Vilseck Falcons secured a No. 2 seed for the DODDS-Europe football championships as Division-I’s top scoring team soared past Heidelberg 34-26, marking an end to the storied Lions program.
Two fourth-quarter touchdown scrambles by Falcons senior Carlton Campbell broke a 20-20 tie going into the final 12 minutes to propel Vilseck to a 5-1 record and the school’s first victory over the Lions in five attempts.
Heidelberg needed a win Saturday along with a Bristol or Patch loss to secure a spot in the playoffs, but none of those happened.
Senior Andre Brown gave the home crowd hope in the game’s opening minute with a 63-yard touchdown run to put the first points on the board.
The Falcons stormed back in the second frame, scoring 12 unanswered as Campbell found the end zone with a 28-yard run on a fourth-down-and-9.
Sophomore quarterback Brittian Blackman connected with Isaiah Adkins on a 10-yard pass soon after to give the Falcons the lead heading to halftime. The pair later hooked up on a 29-yard TD.
Vilseck had a chance to add to its halftime lead with the ball on Heidelberg’s 5-yard line with 8 seconds left in the half, but a sack by senior Justin Rodney ran the clock out.
“I knew we had to get him or the game might be over,” said Rodney, who also led the Lions offensive output with 99 rushing yards, including a 67-yard TD scamper.
Blackman proved that he can add some balance to the Vilseck offense heading into next week’s D-I semifinal, airing it out for 118 yards and connecting on 4 of 9 pass attempts.
“This was the first game we’ve really started passing that much,” Adkins said.
Watching Vilseck’s rushing game at work, it’s easy to see why coach Jim Hall has preferred to keep his Falcon’s wings clipped. Leading Vilseck’s multi-headed rushing attack in attempts and yards on Saturday was All-European Shawn Peebles, who rushed for 124 yards on 19 attempts. Campbell notched 113 yards and Blade Strauss added 59.
Campbell anchored the Falcons defense with 12 ½ tackles, followed by senior Victor Hernandez’s seven and a half – three for losses.
Brown led the Lions with 11½ tackles, followed by juniors Kyle Moore and Daniel White, with six and five and a half, respectively.
“They had a lot of heart,” said Peebles, who’ll head into next week’s playoffs with 940 rushing yards on the year, about the Lions scrappy play during Saturday’s surprisingly physical contest.
Peebles’ coach agreed, comparing the game to a heavyweight fight where both squads kept trading punches while waiting for the knockout blow.
“Wake up, this is game time,” Campbell barked to his team as Heidelberg was rallying. Although the Lions gridiron days came to an end, fans and players were able to end their football history on a positive note. Sophomore quarterback Timothy Cuthbert, who rushed for 80 yards, scored the final points on the Lions’ home field on a 5-yard keeper - one of his two scores.
Heidelberg, slated to close at the end of the school year as U.S. Army Europe headquarters finalize their relocation to Wiesbaden, has a gridiron history dating back to the school’s first squad in 1947. Although that first team went 0-3, they went on to finish 5-0 the next year, en route to their first of many football championships.
“I have mixed feelings,” said Brown, who spent all four of his high school years at Heidelberg, about the team’s last game in history. “I’m glad we played our butts off.”
Brown noted that most of the team’s players are underclassman and took pride in knowing that his squad improved every week.
Although there won’t be a school trophy case around next year to display memorabilia, Brown said he knows exactly where his football jersey will go, a gift to his father once he returns from Afghanistan.