WHITE Hills has put itself in prime position to secure the last available spot in the Heathcote District league finals series.
In what shaped as the match most likely to decide fifth spot between the two teams battling for it, the Demons beat Heathcote by seven points on Saturday.
Set up by a strong first half, the Demons prevailed 13.10 (88) to 12.9 (81) to draw level on 24 points with the Saints, who continue to hold fifth spot on percentage with two rounds left.
However, the Demons would be favoured to win both of their last two games against Leitchville-Gunbower and Huntly, while the Saints only have one more game remaining with a bye next week followed by round 18 against Leitchville-Gunbower.
Essentially, what Saturday's result has done is put White Hills' finals destiny in its own hands.
In what was a high stakes contest, it was the Demons who handled the situation far better in the first half to race to a 33-point lead at the main break, 9.6 to 4.3.
The Saints had the better of the second half, but it was too big a gap to bridge as the Demons were able to stave off the challenge from the visitors to win by seven points.
"It was a tale of two halves, but full credit to White Hills, they definitely came to play today," Heathcote coach Andrew Saladino said.
"They were ferocious in the first half and deserved to have a big lead. They won the footy around the contest and were a lot harder than we were.
"It was disappointing to be in that position at half-time, but to the boys' credit, we played how we know we can in the second half and gave ourselves a chance.
"But ultimately, it was the first half that cost us the game."
Liam Bartels showed his class for the Demons to boot six goals, while Mitch Dole kicked two and was named the best for White Hills.
Kai Cavallaro, Jackson Jones, Braden Padmore and Billy Price all kicked two goals for the Saints, who for the third time in their past four games were beaten by a single-figure margin.
"It was like a final today and it probably showed we have a lot of guys who haven't experienced a really hot game like today," Saladino said.
"It pretty much sums up our year... two really good quarters where we can match it with anybody and then two quarters where we let ourselves down.
"I thought a couple of our younger players stood up for us. Joey Beedle was really good down back and Kyle Seidel in the midfield tried hard all day."
Lockington-Bamawm United handed North Bendigo its biggest loss on its home turf at Atkins Street for nine years.
The Cats pulled away from the Bulldogs late in the game to win by 38 points, 15.15 (105) to 9.13 (67).
The win keeps the Cats a game clear on top of the ladder, while the Bulldogs' double chance destiny has now been taken out of their hands.
So dominant have the Bulldogs been at their home ground for so long, it was their biggest defeat at Atkins Street since going down to the Cats by 40 points in round 13 of 2013.
The Cats winning by 38 points came after the scores had been level 50-apiece at half-time.
"It was a good, hard-fought game of footy," LBU coach Brodie Collins said.
"We were led really well by (ruckman) Tyler Phillips in what was probably his best game of the season.
"His work around the ground with his marking was outstanding.
"Lachie Atherton did a lot of the grunt work in the middle and was a real standout and Anthony McMahon was a great target for us at full-forward."
McMahon was the leading goalkicker on the ground with five for the Cats.
The Bulldogs had been within nine points of LBU 10 minutes into the final term before the Cats kicked away.
"Locky's midfield probably really took over in the last 20 minutes and, unfortunately, we probably put the cue in the rack, which was a disappointing way to finish," North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.
"Locky's midfield just batted deeper than us today and we probably had to really scrap for our goals, whereas they seemed to have a bit more space and time because we didn't put enough pressure on the ball-carrier."
Dylan Klemm and Jordan Ford kicked three goals each for the Bulldogs, who like the Cats did with Phillips, named ruckman Jeremy Lambden their best player.
"Even though we got beaten in the stoppages and clearances, Jeremy probably got his hand first to 70 per cent of the hit-outs," Bennett said.
"Tyler was really good as well for Locky... it was a great battle."
North Bendigo defender Tim Devereaux has re-injured a hamstring.
Meanwhile, North Bendigo forward Cody Riddick brought up a century of goals earlier in the day in the under-18 competition.
Starting the day on 97 goals for the season, Riddick kicked the three he needed for the ton in the first term before finishing the game with five in the Bulldogs' 41-point win.
Colbinabbin overcame a sluggish first half to defeat Huntly by 14 points at home.
The upset of the season was looming as a strong possibility when the Hawks led by 27 points at half-time, 7.4 to 2.7.
However, the Grasshoppers lifted after the break, kicking eight goals to two to run over the top of the Hawks and win 10.15 (75) to 9.7 (61).
"We just didn't fire a shot at all in that first half. Looking at our stats at half-time there was only a handful of blokes who had over six touches... we just couldn't get our hands on the ball," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"Our starts the past few weeks have become a real issue for us. We've been working on trying to fix it, but we were unable to today, so we're going to have to be much better from the start next week against the top team (LBU)."
The Grasshoppers had two milestone games on Saturday, with Stephen Tuohey playing game 100 and wingman Alex Van Ruiswyk, who injured his calf in the opening minute, playing game 150.
Matt Riordan and Jed Brain, who were named first and second best for the Grasshoppers, kicked three goals each.
Among the highlights for the Hawks was Abe Sladden kicking two goals in his senior debut.
"We played the brand of footy we've been working on all year in the first half, but unfortunately, we could only produce it for half-a-game," Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"Credit to Colbinabbin after half-time. We knew they would come out and respond and we started to lose those key indicators that we were winning in the first half around our pressure and contested footy."
An inaccurate Elmore won its third game of the season, defeating Leitchville-Gunbower at home by 25 points.
The Bloods triumphed 7.19 (61) to 5.6 (36).
"Leitchy certainly made us work hard for us, so it was good for the boys to get over the line," Elmore co-coach Dylan Friedberger said.
"I spoke to the boys before the game that with us not playing finals we have to really build something for next year and treat these last three games like they are our finals."
Skipper Nick Kellow led the way for the Bloods in the midfield to be their best player.
"Nick really returned to form in a strong way today. He was in-and-under and played really well in the midfield and up forward," Friedberger said.
"Tylor Amor Beale was huge through the midfield and Connor Beckmans in his second senior game was great in defence."
Darcy Laffy kicked three goals for Elmore.
No Leitchville-Gunbower details were supplied.
Lockington Bamawm United Seniors 5.2 7.8 10.12 15.15 (105)
North Bendigo Seniors 4.3 7.8 8.9 9.13 (67)
GOALS: Lockington Bamawm United Seniors: A.McMahon 5, J.Collins 3, T.Leech 3, T.Phillips 2, J.Bacon 1, J.Howlett 1; North Bendigo Seniors: J.Ford 3, D.Klemm 3, S.Giri 1, M.Thalasinos 1, N.Waterson 1
BEST: Lockington Bamawm United Seniors: T.Phillips, L.Atherton, A.McMahon, J.Collins, T.Bacon, J.Wolfe; North Bendigo Seniors: J.Lambden, J.Ford, S.Giri, S.Harris, D.Klemm, B.Wingrave
Colbinabbin Seniors 1.5 2.7 7.11 10.15 (75)
Huntly Seniors 3.4 7.4 8.4 9.6 (61)
GOALS: Colbinabbin Seniors: M.Riordan 3, J.Brain 3, L.Fitzgerald 1, J.McMurtrie 1, S.Ryan 1, T.Clarke 1; Huntly Seniors: A.Sladden 2, T.Miles 1, K.Forster 1, M.Christensen 1, J.Cordy 1, L.Gray 1, T.Mercadante 1, J.Cowling 1
BEST: Colbinabbin Seniors: M.Riordan, J.Brain, J.McMurtrie, T.Clarke, T.Hill, B.Barton; Huntly Seniors: M.Christensen, S.Kairn, J.Cordy, H.Campbell, J.Cowling, J.Maher
White Hills Seniors 4.0 9.6 12.7 13.10 (88)
Heathcote Seniors 2.1 4.3 9.6 12.9 (81)
GOALS: White Hills Seniors: L.Bartels 6, M.Dole 2, N.Wallace 1, B.Fallon 1, J.Dickens 1, C.Kekich 1, J.Davies 1; Heathcote Seniors: K.Cavallaro 2, B.Padmore 2, B.Price 2, J.Jones 2, C.Price 1, M.McLean 1, R.Bolton 1, J.Brooks 1
BEST: White Hills Seniors: M.Dole, J.Davies, R.Walker, B.Fallon, D.Wright, N.Wallace; Heathcote Seniors: W.Direen, H.McCarthy, K.Cavallaro, K.Seidel, J.Jones, S.Harrison
Elmore Seniors 1.1 5.10 7.12 7.19 (61)
Leitchville Gunbower Seniors 1.2 2.4 4.6 5.6 (36)
GOALS: Elmore Seniors: D.Laffy 3, T.Amor Beale 1, L.Gundry 1, B.Sawyer 1, T.Cerrone 1; Leitchville Gunbower Seniors:
BEST: Elmore Seniors: N.Kellow, T.Amor Beale, H.Trewick, S.McHale, C.Beckmans, M.Carson; Leitchville Gunbower Seniors:
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