Straughn falls to Pike Co.

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 28, 2002

Straughn (7-2, 5-2) tuned the ball over five times and gave up two touchdowns on fourth-down plays as they fell to the Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0) 14-6. However, one Tiger almost carried his team to victory by himself.

On fourth-and-goal from the Pike County nine-yard line, trailing by two touchdowns, Tiger quarterback Justin Bracewell found senior wideout Justin Clark in the end zone for the score.

Since only 2:04 remained in the game, Straughn needed an on-sides kick to have a chance. Kicker Dusty Varner, who missed the extra point, redeemed himself with a perfect on-sides kick that bounced over the front line of Pike County. Clark leaped into the air and caught the ball.

"I hate to single out one player, because they all play so hard, but Justin Clark did an outstanding job," Tiger Head Coach Trent Taylor said. "He made some outstanding plays for us and he made the last two while he was hurt."

Clark finished with two rushes for seven yards and five receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.

However, junior full back Dawanis Samuel was stopped on fourth-and-one from the Pike County 40 to end the rally. Samuel was hit at the line of scrimmage, but the officials marked him barely short of the marker.

"We wanted to win so bad," Bracewell said. "It just wasn't our night."

The first half was a flurry of missed opportunities for both teams.

Pike County took the opening drive 58 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs scored on an 11-yard pass from Chris Nickson to wide receiver Nick Walker on fourth-and-goal.

"I think we played as hard on fourth down as we did on first, second and third, but they just made the plays," Taylor said.

Straughn's first drive was not as good. Runningback Michael Hobbs was hit in the elbow and the ball popped free. Pike County recoverd at the Tiger 44.

The defense held, though, and Pike County had to punt.

However, Bracewell gave the ball back to the Bulldogs two plays later when he was intercepted by a diving Dontrell Flowers at the Tiger 37.

Once again, the defense stepped up and forced Pike County to punt.

"We just made too many mistakes," Bracewell said. "We need to step it up on offense."

Walker's punt rolled dead at the one-yard line, the Tiger offense appeared ready to tie the game.

Hobbs broke free for a 71-yard gain on first-and-10 from the 18 to the Pike County 11. The Tigers ran two plays, but faced a third-and-nine from the 10 as the first quarter ended.

However, the drive took a very bad turn on the first play of the second quarter. Bracewell let the shotgun snap sail over his head and Pike County recovered the football all the way back at the 28.

"The first four times we had the ball, we turned it over," Taylor said.

The fourth turnover may have been the costliest. After the Tiger defense pounced on a Craig Flowers fumble at their own 36, Bracewell threw his second interception to Chris Bell who returned it to the Tiger 30.

That turnover set up the Bulldogs' final score. Nickson hit Walker again for a 28-yard score on fourth-and-eight.

"We made a mental mistake on that one," Taylor said. "Our defensive back thought the quarterback was going to scramble and he came up. We talk about that every day in practice."

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Straughn appeared to catch a break late in the quarter when Jamie Straughn picked off a Nickson pass at the Tiger 31.

The Tigers faced a fouth-and-eight from the Bulldog 49, and Bracewell hit

Clark for 13 yards. However, Bracewell mishandled the shotgun snap and Pike County recovered again.

Pike County won the region championship, and since W.S. Neal lost to T.R. Miller, Straughn will be at home in the first round of the playoffs.