Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it! That became more than a motto on the Scotland County R-I football shirts, as the Tigers lived it on Friday night, toppling the #1 team in the state, knocking Westran from the ranks of the undefeated with a 38-21 victory in Memphis.
“Beating a #1 team is something you dream about as a head football coach,” said Troy Carper, who admitted his 10th career coaching victory in his second year at the helm of the SCR-I program will always hold a special place in his heart.
“This isn’t about me though,” he added. “This is about my wife and family making sacrifices allowing me to chase my dreams. This is about the players and coaches believing and buying into the culture we are building at Scotland County. The simple truth is I’m an ‘average Joe’ coach blessed with great kids who play for each other and the name on our chests.”
Despite the fairy tale ending, the evening got off to a bit of a nightmarish start for Scotland County.
The Tigers went three and out on the opening possession. After holding Westran and forcing a punt, SCR-I caught a bad break, when officials incorrectly ruled that the kick was hit by a Tiger beyond the line of scrimmage. Game film clearly showed the lineman was several yards behind the line of scrimmage when the low kick clipped his arm. So instead of downing a partially blocked kick, Westran pounced on a fumble.
The Hornets took advantage of the break, scoring six plays later when quarterback Alex Young ran it in from nine yards out. Koby Coonce made the point after try to give Westran a 7-0 lead with 7:15 left in the first period.
The Tigers answered with an 11-play drive, twice converting on fourth down, which became a theme of the evening. The second fourth down conversion was the big one, when faced with fourth down and four to go, Will Fromm hit Matthew Woods for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Jayden Payne booted the PAT through the uprights to knot the score at 7-7 with 3:31 left in the first period.
Westran regained the lead just two plays later as Young ran the ball twice for 45 yards, taking advantage of a late hit penalty against the Tigers to set up his 19-yard TD run. Coonce kicked the PAT to put Westran back on top 14-7 with 1:45 remaining in the first period.
The Tigers next drive stalled and SCR-I was forced to punt. The Hornets appeared to have the momentum, but it was short lived as Westran muffed the kick return and Woods was able to pounce on the fumble and ignite the SCR-I sideline.
With just 34 yards to go, SCR-I still had to convert on a fourth down to keep the drive alive before Kaden Anders scored on a four-yard TD run with 10:12 left in the second period. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving Westran ahead 14-13.
The Scotland County defense took over the game at this point, getting big plays from nearly every player on the field over the final three periods.
After Westran went three and out with a punt, SCR-I put together another scoring drive. Fromm connected with Jayden Payne for a 22-yard screen play, a perfect call against the Westran blitz by offensive coordinator Kyle Ellison.
But a penalty and a sack backed SCR-I up against a fourth down and 25 yards to go. No problem for the Tigers as Fromm found Woods for a 34-yard TD with 6:29 left in the first half to give Scotland County a 19-14 lead.
The Tigers weren’t finished. After the defense forced another three and out by Westran, SCR-I had enough time for one final first half tally. SCR-I went to the bag of tricks to start the drive. Fromm handed off to Payne, who pitched a reverse to Jace Morrow. The receiver then lofted a pass to Fromm, and the quarterback turned receiver picked up enough for a first down.
The drive found itself in familiar territory, facing a fourth down and three to go. Fromm hit Woods with a 31-yard TD pass with 3:08 left in the second period to make the score 25-14.
SCR-I got the ball back one more time in the first half after Westran again failed to pick up a first down. But this time the Tigers were unsuccessful on fourth down and time ran out on the opening half.
Scotland County’s defense continued its inspired play in the second half. Westran took the opening kickoff and marched down the field. But Luke Triplett ended the threat, stuffing Kolby Dale in the backfield on a fourth down carry to force the turnover on downs.
SCR-I moved into scoring position but failed for just the second time in the contest on a fourth down conversion attempt, turning the ball over at the 33-yard line with 5:05 left in the third period.
After Westran went three and out, the Tigers added to the lead with a seven play drive, once again scoring on fourth down, when Fromm hit Payne for a 12-yard TD pass with 1:15 left in the third period. Payne made the PAT kick to push the lead to 32-14.
The Hornets turned the ball over on downs, failing to convert on fourth down to open the fourth quarter. Grant McRobert put the pressure on Young, hitting the quarterback as he threw. The pass attempt still had a chance, but Fromm went up high from his safety position to bat down the ball and break up the completion.
SCR-I began milking the clock, and the conservative ground approach led to just the second SCR-I punt of the game with 10:01 left to play.
SCR-I went into a prevent defense, allowing the Hornets to pick up some pass plays to pad the stats before coming up with key stops, interceptions by Parker Triplett and Branton Burrus.
Westran was able to trim the lead to 32-21 with 4:50 left to play when Young hit Greg Bealmer for a 22-yard TD pass.
But after Burrus’s interception, SCR-I sealed the upset with a five-play drive that saw Fromm run the ball in from three yards out to make the final score 38-21.
After allowing scores on the first two Westran possessions, the Tigers defense, allowed just 26 total yards and only two first downs combined on the next six Hornets’ possessions, during which time a 14-7 deficit turned into a 32-14 lead.
Anders led the way on defense with 11 tackles. Burrus made eight stops as part of a well-balanced team effort that saw at least nine defenders credited for four tackles or more.
Scotland County put up 328 yards of total offense. The key to the game was converting on six of eight fourth down tries, including four touchdown plays. Fromm completed 14 of 34 passes for 217 yards and four TDs. He ran the ball 13 times for 56 yards and a TD. Woods caught four passes for 81 yards and two TDs. Anders had four receptions for 54 yards and a TD and also ran the ball four times for 17 yards and a TD. Payne ran the ball 16 times for 76 yards and added two catches for 34 yards and a TD.
Scotland County improved to 4-2 on the year overall and in the Lewis & Clark Conference. Westran dropped to 5-1 and fell from the top spot in the coaches poll to #2 this week. The four-game win streak for SCR-I has boosted the team to the #2 seed in the district behind Westran and ahead of Knox County heading into this week’s Homecoming show down with the Eagles.