October 29, 2009

Tigers Topple Schuyler County 35-14 to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

The Scotland County football program took a huge step toward extending the 2009 season into the state playoffs with a 35-14 victory over Schuyler County in week #2 of the Class 1 District 12 playoffs.

SCR-I wasted little time jumping on top of the Rams, taking advantage of the wet field conditions. Justin Winnís opening kickoff squirted across the soggy field, and was mishandled by the Schuyler County return man, The Tigers pounced on the muffed return to open the contest with a fumble recovery that gave the home team the ball inside the 10-yard line.

Schuyler County nearly overcame the miscue, but Kyle Shelley punched the ball in from one-yard out on fourth down to put the Tigers on top 6-0 with 9:45 left in the first period. SCR-I mishandled the snap on the PAT kick.

The Tigers kept the pressure on Schuyler County, pinning them deep with good kick coverage. Kyle Shelley picked off a Tim Gorman pass and nearly returned it for another score, before being tripped up near the 25-yard line.

The Tigers unveiled a new wrinkle on offense, with Shelley taking snaps at the quarterback spot while setup in a shotgun look. He ran an effective option attack combined with halfback Cody Taft. The later moved the chains with a 12-yard run, before the team went back to the conventional two-back formation with Brock Bondurant at quarterback. The sophomore handed it off to Shelley for a three-yard touchdown run with 6:35 left in the first period. Sabe Sears ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.

Coach Brent Bondurant implored the Tigers to keep pouring it, as he told the huddle before the kickoff that it was important not to let the Rams recover from the poor start.

The troops took the message to heart, as freshman Monte Sally put a big hit on the Rams return man, forcing the third turnover of the first period. Scotland County recovered the loose ball at the 19-yard line.

Unfortunately the Tigers failed to take advantage of the turnover. A key penalty nullified a pass play from Bondurant to Taft that would have given the Tigers the ball first and goal to go. The flag backed up SCR-I and the Tigers ultimately missed on a 32-yard field goal attempt.

But the Scotland County defense continued to put the pressure on Gorman and the Rams spread offense. Schuyler County went three and out with a punt, insuring the visiting team would go without a first down the entire opening period.

The Tigers next drive stalled in similar fashion, and SCR-I was forced to lineup for a punt. But a key offsides penalty versus the Rams helped the Tigers move the chains and keep the drive alive. Shelley and Taft ran wild on the Rams defense before Taft finally broke an 11-yard TD run with 10:15 remaining in the second period. Sabe Sears nailed the PAT kick to make it 21-0.

Schuyler County finally got the offense going. Gorman connected with Aaron Fowler for a 33-yard pass that put the Rams in scoring position. But four times the Tigers defense stopped the Rams, with Brandon Garnett and Logan Brassfield combining to sack Gorman on fourth down, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Shelley and returned to the 31-yard line.

SCR-I looked poised to tack on another score before the half. Bondurant hit Taft on a pass play to move the ball near midfield. But after a key fourth down conversion, SCR-I self-destructed, with a band snap, a sack and a penalty that backed the drive up. A bad snap on the punt gave Schuyler County one final shot at a first half score.

Once again SCR-Iís defense answered the challenge. Excellent pass coverage left Gorman without an opening on fourth down and goal at the four yard line, as the drive ended with just 36 ticks left on the clock.

SCR-I went three and out on the opening possession of the second half. A mishandled snap on the punt made matters even worse, giving the Rams excellent field position. They took advantage of the break as Gorman scored on a 10-yard run with 8:21 to go in the third period. The two-point conversion made it 21-8.

But what momentum Schuyler County had at that point quickly evaporated courtesy of Cody Taft. The senior broke a 73-yard touchdown run around the left end, bringing the smallish home crowd to its feet. The PAT was no good, leaving the Tigers on top 27-8 with 7:30 left in the third quarter.

Taft gave Scotland County the ball right back, as he recovered a fumble at the 45-yard line with 6:21 on the clock.

But the Tigers failed to take advantage of the break, as penalties nullified a good run by Sabe Sears and ultimately forced a punt.

That left the door open for the Rams, who cut the deficit to two scores when Gorman hit Folwer for a 27-yard TD pass. Sears and Bondurant broke up the two-point conversion pass to keep the lead at 27-14 with 2:45 left in the third period.

The tide looked poised to turn as the Rams recovered an onside kick, and marched towards another score. But the Tigers defense did not break. Taft broke up a fourth down pass attempt.

SCR-I put the game away with a long drive fueled by the ground game of Shelley and Taft. Shelley scored his third TD of the contest with 8:54 left in the contest, when he ran it in from six yards out. The two-point conversion made the final score 35-14.

Schuyler County was held to just shy of 200 yards of total offense. Gorman completed six of 16 pass attempts for 92 yards. He was held to 56 yards on the ground on 13 attempts.

Shelley led the Tigers defense with 12 tackles. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery. Taft made nine stops and also recovered a pair of fumbles. Winn contributed seven tackles.

SCR-I needed just 15 first downs on the night. Shalley had 16 carries for 65 yards and three TDs. Taft ran the ball 27 times for 172 yards and two scores. Bondruant completed two of five pass attempts for 15 yards.

Knox County held off North Shelby 20-14 to take a commanding 2-0 district record heading into the regular season finale next week against the Rams (1-1). The Tigers (1-1) will close out district play Thursday night at North Shelby (0-2).

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