MANLIUS – Parker Neuhalfen might have had a career night offensively against Amboy on Friday, but it was a play he made on defense that might have been his biggest moment of the night.
With the Clippers driving and trying to force overtime, Neuhalfen intercepted a Liam Ohlendorf pass intended for Damon Quest in the end zone with 1:22 remaining to secure a 36-28 victory for Bureau Valley in a Three Rivers North game in Manlius.
Two plays earlier, Neuhalfen was beaten by Quest for a 33-yard reception that set Amboy up at the BV 24-yard line and put the momentum on the Clippers’ side.
“We had to make a play, and one of our playmakers made a play,” Bureau Valley coach Jeff Ohlson said. “We had two turnovers that were costly. We had a fumble at the goal line and then another at midfield, and it felt like the breaks weren’t going our way. We had a break go our way at the end.”
The interception was Neuhalfen’s second of the game. He also led all rushers with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in a must-win game for the Storm (3-4, 2-2), who must continue to win to qualify for the playoffs.
“We told the kids 2 weeks ago, we have to get back to doing the things we’ve done, and that’s being physical on the offensive line and defensive line,” Ohlson said. “They’ve bought into it, and these guys keep fighting.”
Overshadowed by Neuhalfen’s big night was Tommy Johnston, who rushed for 136 yards on 16 attempts. He had the Storm’s first two scores, a 7-yard run and a 45-yard run, both in the first quarter.
Amboy got within 14-12 following a 1-yard dive by Chris Jones with 5:09 remaining in the first half, but BV put two big scores on the board before the half ended that Clipper coach Gary Jones called a “back-breaker”.
Neuhalfen had both touchdown runs, the first from 40 yards, and the second with 51 seconds remaining on an 88-yard scramble.
“Those big plays late in the first half got to us,” said Jones. “[Neuhalfen] got loose on a couple of scrambles. He’s quick.”
“There was some cutback lanes, and he sees things real well,” Ohlson said. “It’s one of those things where we just let him play. Early in the season, we may have coached him up too much. We’ve let him just play since midseason, and he’s really taken off.”
After Amboy cut the lead to 29-20 following Jason Bontz’s second touchdown run of the game, the Storm cushioned their lead back to 36-20 when Neuhalfen converted a critical fourth-and-6 for a 15-yard score. It was the second fourth-down conversion of the drive for the Storm.
But Amboy wouldn’t go away quietly, and following a 30-yard run by Bontz (32 carries, 206 yards), Ohlendorf hit Ryan Leffelman down the middle of the field for a 21-yard touchdown pass to get within one score with 4:16 left.
“We could have laid down and died pretty easy in the second half,” Jones said. “I told them they played a good second half of football.”