The Scotland County football season came to a close Friday night in Paris, but the Tigers did not go down without a fight, falling to the Coyotes 42-31 in a back-and-forth affair that featured plenty of excitement.
The contest between the second and third seeded teams in the Class 1 District turned into a shootout despite getting off to a relatively slow start.
Scotland County went three and out with a punt on the opening possession. Paris looked poised to take the early lead before SCR-I’s defense made a goal line stand.
After another three and out on offense by the Tigers, SCR-I caught a break when Paris fumbled the punt return and Jace Morrow collected the loose ball for the turnover.
SCR-I gave the ball right back to Paris with an interception which was returned for a touchdown by Laine Forrest. The play was called back on a penalty but that only delayed the Coyotes first score of the night as they capped off a three-play 26-yard drive with a short TD run by Briar Hancock. Breck Hancock made the point after try (PAT) to make the score 7-0 with 3:25 left in the first period.
After struggling to get a running attack going on the opening two series, SCR-I went to the air on the third possession of the night and it paid immediate dividends. Aaron Buford connected with Ian See on a long pass play. The junior signal caller then hit Ryan Slaughter across the middle and the speedy receiver did the rest, slicing through the Coyotes defense for a 25-yard touchdown. Gage Dodge drilled the PAT kick to tie the score at 7-7 with 1:37 left in the opening period.
SCR-I kept the momentum when Buford made an acrobatic interception of a Brett Miller pass near midfield on the final play of the first quarter.
But the Tigers could not take advantage of the turnover.
Paris looked poised to regain the lead with another long drive that saw the Coyotes with the ball first and goal inside the 10-yard line. But the SCR-I defense was up to the challenge, turning away Paris of four tries at the end zone. Chester Robinson set the tone on first down, blowing up the offensive line and pushing back the Paris runner for a loss.
Unfortunately the momentum was short lived, as the Tigers took over on offense but were unable to move the chains. Forrest took the wind out of the SCR-I sails when he took the punt down the left sideline for a 37-yard TD with 3:45 left in the first half.
The Tigers answered with a scoring drive of their own. The big play was an option run by Buford and Austin Day. The quarterback picked up the first chunk of yards before dropping the lateral to Day who was in tow, and blasted down the sideline before being run out of bounds in the red zone. That set up a six-yard TD pass from Buford to Slaughter. The Paris defense made a key play, blocking the PAT kick to maintain a 14-13 advantage with 2:18 left in the second quarter.
Paris took just over a minute in game time to answer when Miller hit Briar Hancock on a five-yard TD pass. Breck Hancock made the PAT kick to push the Paris lead to 21-13 with 1:01 left in the first half.
That proved just enough time for one more Tigers’ tally. Paris chose to avoid Slaughter on the kickoff return, instead kicking short. That gave SCR-I the ball near midfield and it took just two plays for Buford to again find Slaughter for a 38-yard TD pass with 27.7 seconds on the clock. Paris stopped the two-point conversion attempt to keep a 21-19 lead at the intermission.
Paris was forced to punt on the opening series of the second half. Scotland County went for it on fourth and one at their own 18-yard line but a fumbled snap gave Paris excellent field position.
The Coyotes took advantage of the break and Miller scored on a one-yard TD run with 5:43 left in the third period to extend the margin to 28-19.
SCR-I came right back with a scoring drive fueled by the passing attack. Buford connected with See for a good gain before Slaughter took a screen pass 21-yards for his fourth receiving TD of the contest. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Paris on top 28-25 with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
Paris answered when Tucker Gruber scored on a seven-yard run with 11:26 to play in the fourth period. The PAT made the score 35-25.
The Tigers found their backs against the wall, facing a fourth down with timing running out on their season. Slaughter answered the call once again, as he took a handoff and scampered 45-yards for the touchdown, his fifth visit to the end zone on the night, to make the score 35-31 with 8:34 left in the game.
The SCR-I forced its only three and out of the night after Bryson Orton backed up the Coyotes on first down with a big tackle for a loss.
SCR-I looked poised to take the lead after Buford hit Gage Dodge for a good gain to move the ball across midfield. But a pair of sacks stopped the drive and SCR-I was forced to punt.
Briar Hancock put the finishing touch on the game when he broke a 64-yard touchdown run with 3:13 left to make the final score 42-31.
Buford completed a season-high 21 passes on 39 attempts for 236 yards and four TDs. He also ran the ball 15 times for 30 yards. Slaughter hauled in seven passes for 125 yards and four TDs. He also carried the ball once for 45 yards and another score. Gage Dodge had seven catches for 50 yards and Jade Holt caught six passes for 36 yards.
Gruber led the Coyotes with 154 yards rushing and a TD on 25 carries. Hancock carried the ball nine times for 100 yards and two scores. He also caught four passes for 44 yards and a TD. Miller completed seven of 10 passes for 85 yards and a TD. He also ran the ball three times for seven yards and a touchdown.
Aaron Blessing had a huge game on defense, finishing with 17 tackles. Slaughter added a season-high 15 tackles. Buford had five stops and an interception.
The Tigers closed out the season with a 6-5 record.