CALCUTTA - The Beavers had their shot, but it was just out of reach.
Beaver Local battled from behind with Niles until the closing seconds Friday at Fighting Beaver Stadium.
Looking for their first win of the season and trailing by one score with 42 seconds remaining, the Beavers faced a fourth-and-goal on the 3-yard line. Quarterback Evan Schneider rolled out of the pocket and threw a pass into the back of the endzone toward Jarod Pirl, but it fell incomplete and the Red Dragons prevailed, 13-6.
"You saw two programs that played their hearts out," Niles coach Brad Yeager said. "I'm glad we came away with a win, but I honestly hate to see anyone lose that game."
Beaver Local (0-4) dominated much of the game against Niles (3-1). The Beavers topped the Red Dragons in most offensive categories, including first downs (12 to 8), rushing yards (188 to 57) and total yards (239 to 191), but were unable to come away with the victory.
"We simply didn't get it done offensively," Beaver Local coach Rich Wright said. "We were able to move the ball at times, but we made too many mistakes and had too many penalties. When you're 0-4, I guess you don't catch many breaks. We had a great opportunity to win or tie, but we had crucial mistakes at key times."
The Red Dragons used a big play in the first and fourth quarters to capture the win.
The first came with 8:44 in the first frame on Niles' first possession. On a 3rd-and-11 from midfield, quarterback Zack Bailey threw a wide receiver screen to Mike Watson. The senior wideout got a key block and maneuvered down the middle of the field all the way for a 50-yard touchdown.
"Mike Watson is the best athlete in this school," Yeager said. "We have to get the ball in his hands. It's a high percentage pass for us, and he took it from there."
The last Niles score came with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter, when running back Reggie Wells found the corner and sprinted for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Red Dragons up, 13-7.
Beaver Local wasn't going down without a fight, however.
The Beavers staged a fourth-quarter drive that held the game's outcome in doubt until the final seconds.
Starting at their own 30-yard line, Beaver Local let Schneider take over. Schneider found Pirl for two completions, of 11 yards and 22 yards to start the momentum. A 15-yard pass interference call against Niles, set up Beaver Local with a first down at the Niles 21-yard line with 1:14 left to go. Schneider then ran for 12 yards setting up a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
Bobby Mercer ran for 6 yards, followed by a fumbled snap and the Beavers faced third-and-goal from the 3-yard line with 46 seconds remaining.
Schneider rolled out to his right on the next two plays, looking for Pirl in the corner of the endzone, but both attempts fell incomplete.
Beaver Local's first score came with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter when Schneider connected with Mercer on an 8-yard strike.
Defensively, the Beavers were up to the task.
Wells, who rushed for 325 yards and four scores last week, was held to just 51 yards on 18 carries.
"They came out with a different look defensively," Yeager said of the Beavers' defensive scheme. "That's hats off to their program. We couldn't adjust for three quarters."
Mercer was the star on defense, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles and a sack. Pirl added four tackles and a fumble recovery.
Offensively, Schneider finished with 107 yards rushing on 22 attempts and threw for 51 yards on 5-of-12 passing with a touchdown.
Mercer totaled 34 yards on 11 carries and had one reception, an 8-yard touchdown. Pirl had three catches for 43 yards.