By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
The Morgan County High School (MCHS) Bulldogs fought hard against the Jackson County Panthers last Friday night, coming from behind late to tie the game 35-35 with 46 seconds remaining in the last quarter, but the Dogs lost 35-38 due to a last-second field goal by the Panthers, who took the fourth-seed position in region 8-AAA and a spot in the state playoffs with the win.
Morgan County finished the season 3-4 in the region with a 6-4 record overall. Jackson County received the ball to begin the first quarter and took the lead with their first drive. After a seven-play drive, the Panthers led the Bulldogs 7-0.
The Dogs came out strong, 45-plus yards on four plays, but a fumble ended Morgan County’s drive prematurely on the Jackson County 22-yard line. Jackson County, taking advantage of Morgan County’s error, scored their second touchdown of the night unanswered and moved ahead to a 14-0 lead.
Again, Morgan County was able to move the ball steadily downfield. Melvin Davis pushed forward 18 yards on the Dogs’ first play of the drive. Marquis Benton, Sam Couch and Trent Hawk shared carries until Morgan County had made it to the Panthers’ 3-yard line, but the Dogs were unable to make a touchdown before turning the ball over on downs.
The Panthers began their drive on their own 1-yard line but committed an infraction in the end zone, creating a safety for Morgan County. Gaining a little traction and on the board 2-14, the Dogs scored on their next drive with a 37-yard pass by Hawk to Trey Chapman, who evaded Panther defenders to make it into the end zone.
Morgan County, who had closed the gap to 9-14 with the touchdown, held Jackson County from scoring on their next drive, but, again, the Dogs fumbled in their own territory during their next drive to give the Panthers good field position. Jackson County scored their third touchdown of the game with a 34-yard pass to make the score 21-9.
The Dogs weren’t able to convert a first down during their next drive, but the Panthers scored their final touchdown of the first half on a 54-yard play. Going into the third quarter, the Dogs had fallen behind 9-28, but Morgan County came out of the locker room prepared to control both the ball and the clock. Morgan County’s first drive of the third quarter lasted almost five minutes and covered 69 yards.
Tyler Benford gained a total of 40 yards during the drive, but Hawk earned the touchdown with a 6-yard carry. A bad snap on the point after attempt prevented the extra point kick, but the Dogs began their forward sweep toward tying the game, closing the gap to 15-28.
The Dogs held Jackson still during their next drive, thanks, in part, to a sack by Tevin Waller for a 4-yard loss. Morgan County used up the remaining time in the third quarter with their next drive, which began on their own 9-yard line and lasted a total of 13 plays before Benton brought the ball into the end zone with a 5-yard advance.
With the score now 21-28, the sense of excitement began to rise on the Morgan County sideline. Players cheered for their teammates out on the field, and the cheerleaders had moved to the Dogs’ side of the field to be close while encouraging the team.
The Dogs’ sense of increasing power contributed to Jackson County fumbling the ball on the first play of their next drive, and 15* recovered the ball on the Panthers’ 7-yard line. Hawk picked up his second touchdown of the night with a 6-yard gain to tie the score 28-28, as most of the Bulldogs on the sideline jumped onto the field out of sheer exuberance.
Despite a sack by 61* that dropped the Panthers back 8 yards on the first play of their next drive, Jackson County again showed how dangerous they could be with long-range passes, scoring on a 44-yard passing play to move ahead 35-28. With only eight minutes remaining in the game, the Dogs were in a tough spot, and some of the Morgan County coaches began pacing on the sidelines.
The Bulldogs’ next drive just made it to the Panthers’ 49-yard line, and Jackson County received the ball with only three and a half minutes remaining in the game. The Panthers, however, gave Morgan County a chance to catch up on their third play of the drive, when they fumbled the ball on the Dogs’ 41-yard line. Waller scooped up the ball for the Bulldogs, which created a fever pitch among the Morgan County players.
After four plays, the Dogs were able to score a touchdown with a 41-yard pass by Hawk to Davis, and the extra point tied the game at 35-35 with only 46 seconds remaining in the game.
The Panthers received the Dogs’ kickoff and were set to start their drive on their own 31-yard line, but a 63-yard pass play got them deep into Bulldog territory almost without warning.
In the dwindling fourth quarter, Jackson County attempted to drive for a touchdown, but, facing a fourth down with only 4 seconds remaining in the game, the Panthers set up for a field goal. The kick was good, and, as the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard reflected the Panthers’ winning score of 38-35.
The loss to Jackson County sets the Bulldogs’ 2013 season record at 6-4 overall, with a 3-4 record in region 8-AAA. Since the Dogs’ game against the Panthers was to determine the fourth-seed spot for the region, Morgan County will not be advancing to the playoffs this year. Congratulations Bulldogs on the 2013 season!