Junior Cougars Downed by Walnut Ridge
Experience comes at a cost, and the Rector Junior Cougars were reminded of this lesson in a hard-fought 16-0 conference loss to the Walnut Ridge Junior Bobcats Thursday night at Paul Temerian Field in Rector.
The visitors from Walnut Ridge went ahead 8-0 with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter before adding a security touchdown in the final frame.
The visitors had a touchdown called back on their first drive as a block in the back penalty negated the big rushing gain. The Junior Cougars responded by stuffing the run in the backfield two plays later, led by Christian Holman. Walnut Ridge fumbled the ball away on the play, with eighth grader Conly Lockhart recovering the pigskin for Rector.
The Cougars, taking over at the Rector 24-yard-line, went three-and-out with a fourth and long situation, punting the ball out to the Junior Cougars' 47. The shortened field allowed Walnut Ridge to cross the goal line in four plays, scoring on a five-yard reverse by Cade Burris. A successful conversion made it 8-0 in favor of the visitors with 1:09 left in the first frame.
The Junior Cougars threatened the Junior Bobcat lead in the second half. Rector received the ball to begin the third quarter and marched down the field on the strength of power running by Colby and Caleb Stokes. Colby Stokes served as the workhorse of the drive, rushing for three first downs during the series, but was injured on a first and goal carry to the five-yard-line. Caleb Stokes brought the ball down to mere inches from the goal line on third and goal, but the visitors held off the charge to force the turnover-on-downs.
"We've got to find a way to score there," Rector head coach David Hendrix said. "We were second and goal from five yards out; we've got to score in that situation."
Walnut Ridge took the ball 99 yards for a touchdown on their ensuing possession, scoring with 4:29 left in the final stanza on a carry by Burris. The successful conversion set the final at 16-0 in favor of the visitors.
"We've got to keep going out there and improving," Hendrix said of his young squad. "We've got to learn from this and build on it; that's where we're at."
Hendrix noted he wants to see more aggression moving forward from the Junior Cougars on the defensive line, something he plans to continue working with the young squad in the days to come.
The Junior Cougars fell to 0-1-1 with the loss and are 0-1 in conference 2A-3. Rector is set to host Salem beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at Temerian Field.
Seventh Graders Roll
The Seventh Grade Cougars improved to 2-0 with a 16-0 victory over Walnut Ridge Thursday evening prior to the start of the junior high game.
Rector stopped Walnut Ridge on the first possession of the game, setting the stage for the Cougars to go 70 yards on 15 plays for the game's first score. Max Ford, Kale Hardin and Shannon Patterson kept the ball, and the chains, moving for Rector with their efforts running the ball. A 10-yard carry by Ford made it first and goal with less than a foot separating the line of scrimmage and the goal line, allowing quarterback Parker Bucy to sneak in for the touchdown with 1:49 left to play in the first half. Ford ran in the two-point conversion, pushing Rector out in front, 8-0.
The young Cougars continued to apply defensive pressure. A sack by Jason Braman served as a drive-killer on Walnut Ridge's final possession of the first half. On the visitors' first possession of the second half, key tackles by Hayden Crow and Hardin moved the ball in the wrong direction for the Bobcats, and Crow's pressure on the quarterback led to a tough pass which Ford tipped and intercepted before returning the ball 17 yards to the Walnut Ridge 48-yard-line.
Carries by Patterson, Ford and Hardin set the stage for a 23-yard touchdown pass from Bucy to Patterson with 7:51 left to play in the second half. Patterson caught the ball around one-yard out and was able to turn and find the end zone before the defense could react to the young speedster. Bucy connected on a pass to Clayton Morgan in the end zone for the successful two-point conversion, as the Seventh Grade Cougars set the final tally in place.
Tackles for losses by Bucy and Hardin stumped the guests' offense on Walnut Ridge's final possession, forcing a punt from deep within Cougar territory. Rector took a knee to end the contest.
Rector dominated all facets of the game, with notable advantages on the offensive and defensive lines being critical to the success in the victory.
The seventh grade squad will return to action at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Rector when they host Salem.