Scotland County had its first lead of the 2014 football season but in the end West Hancock road tailback Josh Espinosa to a 12-7 victory on September 5th in Hamilton, IL.
SCR-I crossed the river to take on the West Hancock Titans and it took just two plays for the home squad to jump on top. After not throwing a single pass in the team’s season opener, Cole Fox showed off his arm on the second snap from scrimmage. He connected with Chance Cooper for a 71 yard touchdown pass. Will Pickerell stuffed the two point try by Jacob Lowman to keep the score at 6-0.
After a short kickoff, SCR-I had the ball near midfield and looked poised to answer with its opening drive.
Ryan Slaughter gained eight yards on a sweep before Will McRobert moved the chains with a run. Slaughter and McRobert combined to pick up another first down. The Tigers were faced with fourth and long when Jade Holt connected with McRobert on a screen pass that went 10 yards for the first down. Aaron Buford got SCR-I in scoring position with a nine yard run but the drive ended on a Tigers fumble at the five-yard line.
SCR-I missed another opportunity on defense. After holding the Titans and forcing a punt, the Tigers had a chance to sack the punter for a safety after a bad snap, but Cooper eluded the rush and was able to scamper for a first down.
The home squad continued to catch the breaks when Lowman was crunched by Ian See and Landyn Swearingen and coughed up a fumble on a third down run, but Cooper was able to cover the loose ball and was awarded the extra yardage that gained a first down. Brendan Orton finally brought the drive to a close with a third down sack of Fox that forced a punt.
Buford and Holt each had first down runs before the duo connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Holt to Buford. Holt tacked on the Point After Try to make the score 7-6 in favor of SCR-I.
The teams traded punts for the rest of the first half as the defenses took charge of the contest.
The Tigers took the opening kick of the second half and looked poised to mount the team’s second scoring drive of the night. Holt ran the ball for 11 yards to move the chains. After a short run by McRobert, Buford broke a 16-yard sweep play around the left end to get the ball to the 35-yard line. But the Titans stuffed a pair of run attempts by McRobert before a third down pass play fell incomplete. Buford was unable to pick up the needed yardage on a fourth down rushing attempt and SCR-I turned the ball over on downs.
West Hancock marched down the field behind the rushing of Espinosa. A key unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against SCR-I on a fourth down kept the drive alive and ultimately saw the Titans with the ball at the eight yard line with a first and goal to go.
Pickerell stopped Espinosa for a one yard gain before Swearingen made a similar stout stop on the Titans ground attack. Holt chased won Fox on a sweep attempt to keep the quarterback out of the end zone before a fourth down incompletion gave the Tigers the ball back.
Unfortunately SCR-I could do nothing on offense and went three and out, giving West Hancock excellent field position at the 25 yard line after a short punt.
After a pair of first downs by Espinosa, the West Hancock workhorse finally plunged into the end zone from one yard out with 9:33 left in the fourth period. Mason Van Hoozen stuffed Espinosa on the two-point try to keep the score at 12-7.
After SCR-I went three and out, the Titans looked ready to run out the clock on a tired SCR-I defense. But after Espinosa moved the chains twice, Swearingen and Van Hoozen sandwiched the back and forced a fumble that was pounced on by Gage Dodge giving the Tigers one last shot at the 45-yard line.
Two short runs and two incompletions later, the Titans had the ball back, and this time they were able to run out the clock on the 12-7 victory.
The Tigers were held to 142 yards of total offense and eight first downs on the night. Aaron Buford ran the ball nine times for 51 yards. Slaughter had 27 yards on five attempts while McRobert gained 22 yards on 15 carries. Holt completed two of eight pass attempts for 34 yards and TD. He ran the ball four times for 16 yards.
West Hancock managed 234 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. Espinosa carried the ball 24 times for 137 yards and a score. Cooper carried it seven times for 25 yards while Fox had 18 yards on eight attempts. He completed one of three pass attempts for 71 yards and a TD.
Swearingen and Van Hoozen led the Tigers defense with 10 tackles apiece. Holt and Tristen Kice each had seven stops.