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October 21, 2010

Blocked Kick Proves to be Difference in 20-19 Win Over Eagles

A blocked point after attempt proved to be the difference as Scotland County held on for a 20-19 victory over Knox County on Friday night to return the Clyde Trophy to Memphis and take the first step towards a state playoff birth.

The Tigers opened play in the Class 1 District 10 playoffs with a key win over their rivals to the south in a game that saw three lead changes.

SCR-I extended its winning streak to three games, but it didn't come easy for the Tigers, who continued to show signs of improvement while battling themselves. Scotland County committed two turnovers and was flagged 10 times for 100 yards in penalties on the night.

Scotland County got off to a promising start, stuffing Knox County's opening possession. But the Tigers were poised to go three and out on offense on their opening possession of offense before a penalty actually helped them. SCR-I was flagged for illegal procedure on the punt, but the delay allowed the coaching staff to change the play call and attack a weakness in the Knox County coverage, which was leaving SCR-I's wide out Zach Miller uncovered near the sideline.

The Tigers faked the punt and Sabe Sears connected with Miller on a 34-yard pass play that brought the SCR-I faithful to their feet.

Rod Sears kept the fans happy when he put SCR-I on the board with a 20-yard touchdown run with 6:09 left in the first period. The PAT kick was no good, leaving the score at 6-0.

Knox County came right back to answer with a long drive of its own. Quarterback Kellen Gillaspy capped off the series with a one-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left in the first period. The Eagles' PAT was good, putting the visitors on top 7-6.

SCR-I went three and out on offense, and a good punt return had the Eagles threatening again. But the Tigers defense answered the challenge. Harley Stone made a stop in the back field and Laden Holt broke up a pair of pass plays that forced Knox County to turn the ball over on downs.

Penalties backed SCR-I up deep in its own territory. However a long run by Sabe Sears left the Tigers facing a fourth down and inches situation. Coach Brent Bondurant demonstrated confidence in his offensive line, going for it. He was rewarded by a first down on a quarterback sneak by Brock Bondurant that kept the drive alive. SCR-I ultimately turned the ball over with a fumble, that gave Knox County the ball near midfield.

The Eagles quickly capitalized as Leighton McCabe scored on a 15-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the first half to make the score 13-6. Ben Shannan intercepted the two point conversion attempt to keep it a one-possession game.

That left time for one-final drive for SCR-I before the half. Sabe Sears moved the chains with a pair of first down efforts before Bondurant hit Stone for a 19-yard pass play.

The drive was kept alive on a pass interference call against Knox County in the end zone on a fourth down play. SCR-I took advantage of the break, as Rod Sears scored on an 11-yard touchdown run with 21.9 ticks left on the clock.

Bondurant hooked up with Stone on a three-yard pass to complete the two-point conversion and give SCR-I the 14-3 lead.

Scotland County nearly added to the advantage despite the short clock. Shannan made his second interception of the night and returned it into scoring position for the Tigers. But two pass attempts to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.

The Tigers committed their second turnover of the night on the opening drive of the second half. But the Eagles failed to take advantage of the fumble. Will See stuffed a first down run attempt and Bondurant backed up Knox County with a tackle in the backfield that pinned the guests deep and forced a punt.

SCR-I put together its third scoring drive of the night, capped off by a seven-yard TD run by Sabe Sears that made the score 20-13 with 5:03 left in the third period.

After the two teams traded punts, Knox County's Damon Hemmerling brought his team charging back. The senior fullback broke a 64-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left in the final period.

Rod Sears broke through the protection on the PAT try and blocked the kick to preserve a 20-19 lead for the home team.

That proved crucial for the Tigers. SCR-I burned up a significant chunk of the remaining clock with a solid drive that crossed midfield. The coaching staff appeared to have called the perfect play on fourth down and one yard to go. Brock Bondurant faked the hand off and ran a reverse bootleg 47-yards to the end zone. But the play was called back on a holding penalty, forcing the Tigers to punt.

The Tigers defense made one final stand, stopping Knox County on four plays, including a crucial fourth down and one run play.

But with just under two minutes left to play, SCR-I still had to run out the clock. A key first down left the game all but decided. However, under the MSHSAA tie-breaker rules, margin of victory can come into play, so SCR-I looked to put one final score on the board before time expired.

Sabe Sears nearly did just that as he broke a 30-yard run, getting forced out of bounds just before crossing the goal line before time ran out.

The Tigers finished the night with 17 first downs. Sabe Sears carried the ball 18 times for 134 yards and score. Rod Sears had two TD's on 12 rushing attempts that netted 93 yards. Bondurant completed four of seven pass attempts on the night, with Harley Stone making three receptions.

Hemmerling led Knox County with 113 yards on 10 carries. McCabe had 89 yards on 20 rushes. Gillaspy completed two of six passes and was intercepted twice.

Sabe Sears led the defense with 12 tackles. Shannan had eight stops as well as the two pick offs. Andy Garrett and Will See each made eight tackles in the win.

Scotland County improves to 4-4 on the year and 2-1 in the Tri-Rivers Conference. The Tigers travel to Queen City to face Schuyler County in round two of districts. The Rams are also 1-0 in district action after defeating North Shelby 26-8.


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