ANDERSON — It was ugly, rough and generally unpleasant.
But Anderson’s 12-8 victory over Arsenal Tech made for one beautiful homecoming result.
The Indians (1-6, 1-4 North Central Conference) fell less than a minute short of posting a shutout and handed head coach Ron Qualls the first victory of his inaugural season.
Quarterback Xander Stokes and safety Joseph Jones took star turns on offense and defense, respectively. But Ontarius Jones might have made the game’s biggest play.
He tackled Tech punt returner Donta Morris at the 44-yard line after the Tribe was forced to kick the ball back to the visitors with 32 seconds to play. If Jones had not made the stop, the Titans (1-6, 1-4) at the very least would have had a much shorter field to work with in the closing seconds. And Morris might have scored.
Instead, Anderson got a sack on first down and the clock ran out after Tech’s quarterback decided to pull the ball down and run on second down.
That set off a joyous homecoming celebration on the Indians’ sideline.
Stokes had a big night passing the ball, finishing 16-of-36 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 53-yard run called back that would have been good for a score in the first half and a 1-yard touchdown run eliminated by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.
On the next snap, Stokes appeared to hit wide receiver Malachi Qualls for an 11-yard touchdown, but that play was wiped out by a chop block penalty. The Indians were hit with a second chop block and wound up with third-and-goal from the 45-yard line.
That was part of a flag-marred night that saw 24 penalties called for a combined 250 yards.
Anderson was penalized 12 times for 132 yards while the Titans were hit with 12 flags for 118 yards.
The Indians, meanwhile, held Tech to just 190 yards of total offense.
Anderson got on the board first just before halftime.
Stokes hit Willie Dennison for a 31-yard gain to Tech’s 3-yard line. Then Qualls made a diving catch in the front corner of the end zone for the touchdown as time expired. He finished with seven catches for 59 yards. Dennison had three grabs for 44 yards and one carry for 16 yards.
Anderson built on its lead to start the second half.
Tech fumbled the opening kickoff, and Stokes hit Joseph Jones for a 14-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to make it 12-0.
It looked like that lead would hold up when Joseph Jones intercepted the Titans in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, grabbing his second pick of the game.
But Tech forced a punt and took over at its own 40-yard line before driving for its only score with 47.7 seconds remaining.
Anderson could run just 15 seconds off the clock on its ensuing possession before Ontarius Jones made his game-saving tackle on the punt return.
The Indians travel to Richmond next week.
This article appears courtesy of The Herald Bulletin.