A good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football game featuring a pair of the top Class 1 teams in the state.
Turns out, that's just what it was.
On a muddy, rain-soaked turf at Louis Bozman Stadium on Nov. 10, the Thayer Bobcats pushed past the Miller Cardinals 28-21 in the sectional round of the Class 1 state playoffs.
This game was in complete contrast to Oct. 17, the first time these two met on the gridiron this year. In that game, the District 3 opener for both squads, the Bobcats (10-1) blew the doors off the Cardinals (10-2), winning 43-7 at Miller.
But round two was just how Bobcat Head Coach Billy Webber figured it might be.
"I knew it would be a slugfest. They're just a quality ballclub," Webber said. "They came down here ready to play and were very-well prepared. We were fortunate to come out on top."
With the victory, Thayer now hosts the Valle Catholic Warriors (10-2) in a quarterfinal matchup Nov. 15 at Louis Bozman Stadium. Kickoff time is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The Warriors knocked off Hayti 32-14 in the sectional round.
Two things that were certainly fortunate for the Bobcats in round two with Miller, was the fact that they had Jacob Eckman and a big offensive line on their side, and that they were able to overcome a rash of untimely penalties, penalties like they had managed to mostly avoid over the course of the regular season.
However, holding a 28-21 lead with 4:10 left in the game, and the ball in their possession, the Bobcats put on a clinic in excellent clock management, largely behind the running of Eckman from the quarterback position.
Starting at their own 29, Cameron Carey (42 yards rushing) chipped off nine yards. Then Eckman carried the ball twice for nine more. Then back to Carey for a carry.
But on third-and-4 from the Cardinal 49, the Cats were hit with their seventh penalty of the night, an illegal procedure call that made it third-and-9 from their own 46.
He sliced off the biggest play of the evening, a 22-yard blast behind Thayer's big line that gave the Bobcats a first down and allowed them to run out the clock on a hard-earned seven-point victory. Eckman posted 148 yards rushing in the game. As a team, the Bobcats racked up 363 yards on the ground, while holding Miller to 157 on the ground.
Thayer finished with 414 yards of total offense, with the Cardinals accounting for 266 yards of total offense.
The visitors from Miller sent a chill through the home crowd that even the cold, pouring rain couldn't match on the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage.
That's when Darin Clark (96 yards rushing) took a handoff from Justin Jack and worked his way through the Thayer defense for a 77-yard touchdown, giving Miller the lead one snap into the action. Dan Parscal's PAT made it 7-0, Miller.
Thayer kept pace with a score near the end of the first, going on a 73-yard scoring drive. Eckman (five-of-seven, 52 yards passing) hit Luke Martin on a 13-yard pass on third down that kept the drive alive and Carey finished things off with a 5-yard TD on first-and-goal at the 3:11 mark. Ethan Leisenring's extra-point try bounced off the right upright, leaving Miller in front 7-6.
It looked like the Cats would get the ball back one last time in the first quarter, but a roughing-the-punter penalty gave Miller a fresh set of downs. This would not be the only time Thayer bailed Miller out via an uncharacteristic penalty at a bad time in the game.
The Bobcats did move on top in the second on Carey's second touchdown of the game. This one came on second-and-goal from the 7, with 8:18 left until the half. Eckman hooked up with Martin on the 2-point conversion pass, moving Thayer ahead 14-7.
On Miller's next series, an offsides on Thayer on fourth-and-4 gave the Cardinals another gift, and this time they cashed it in.
Clark carried the ball in from 12 yards out with a shade under three minutes left in the half. Parscal's extra-point locked the game at 14-all.
But just like they would close out the second half, the Bobcats closed the first half with some shrewd clock management.
Using their two-minute offense, the Bobcats moved from their own 26 to the Miller 23 in eight plays.
On third-and-8, Eckman scrambled free for a 20-yard gain that set his squad up with first-and-goal with 28 ticks showing on the clock. One play later, Eckman burst into the end zone to break the deadlocked score. The extra-point was wide, but Thayer held a 20-14 lead at intermission.
Both defenses tightened the screws in the third quarter, with Thayer fumbling the ball over to Miller on its first series, only to see Ryan Veatch pick off a Jack pass on the Cardinals' next possession. If the Cardinals thought the Cats' pass defense would be ripe for the picking because All-State defensive back Lance Schneider was out with a knee injury, they were wrong. Jared Foley stepped in for Schneider and Veatch turned in another great effort, helping hold the pass-happy Jack to 109 yards passing, on 16-of-21 attempts.
Thayer upped its advantage to two touchdowns early in the fourth on a 10-yard TD run from Josh Huckabee (103 yards rushing). Eckman ran the 2-point conversion in to boost Thayer to a 28-14 lead with 9:23 left to play.
But once again on Miller's next series, the Bobcats were guilty of a pair of penalties that helped the Cardinals sustain a scoring drive. On third-and-goal from the 5, Jack hit Tyler Hinshaw with a TD toss to pull Miller closer. The extra-point made it 28-21, Thayer, with 4:10 left.
The Cardinals, however, would never get the ball back, as Thayer stayed on the ground and wore the clock down, setting up a meeting in the next round with Valle Catholic.
"We're glad we get to advance. Our guys have worked hard and we're happy to get to that next level," said Webber.
Leisenring finished the night with 70 yards on the ground for Thayer.