Cougars Fall in Season Finale
The 2014 Rector Cougars' football season came to a close Thursday night in Marked Tree with the Cougars falling to the hosting Indians, 32-0, in conference 2A-3 play.
Marked Tree was fired up for Senior Night and the addition of talented freshmen made the Indians a tougher opponent than they were earlier in the season, particularly on offense.
Rector worked to keep the speedy Indians inside, taking away the corners for the bulk of the night. However, when Marked Tree was able to avoid containment and work outside, the results were difficult to overcome.
Rector entered Marked Tree territory on their first possession, but stalled near midfield. A well-placed punt by Garrett Buck stuck the Indians at their own two-yard-line. However, Cam Mitchell broke away to the outside on the hosts' first play of the contest, tearing free for a 98-yard touchdown sprint with 7:31 remaining in the opening frame. Bam Westbrook blocked the PAT, leaving the Indians in front, 6-0.
Rector threatened on its next possession, capitalizing on two costly Marked Tree penalties, personal foul-face mask and an offsides penalty, with strong running from senior Austin Scott, sophomore Tommy Stokes and junior Danny Hager. Hager hit Stokes on a halfback pass play to move the Cougars from the Indians' 38-yard-line all the way down to the 12. A false start penalty which pushed the Cougars back to the 16-yard-line with a second and 14 and a Lawson Ford pass to Buck was intercepted in the end zone, killing the drive.
The first quarter ended with the Indians leading 6-0.
Rector fought into Indian territory to start the second frame, but fumbled the ball away at Marked Tree's 27-yard-line. The hosts put together a scoring drive which culminated with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Octavious Dean to Hunter Pitts with 6:06 left in the first half. Marked Tree's pass fell incomplete on the conversion attempt, leaving the Cougars trailing 12-0.
The Indians threatened late in the quarter, reaching the Rector 24-yard-line before Buck intercepted a pass to halt the drive on the final play of the half.
The Indians held on to an onside kick attempt by the Cougars to start the third frame, and marched down the shortened field. Dean went to air again, striking on a 20-yard touchdown with 7:03 left in the third frame. The Indians ran in the conversion to go ahead 20-0.
Tevin McGee scored for the hosts with 3:00 left in the third on a 45-yard touchdown run. Austin Scott blocked the PAT, but the Indians moved ahead 26-0.
Marked Tree scored on the final play of the contest on a 52-yard breakaway touchdown by Bailey Gilbert as time expired.
The Cougars battled the perennially-tough Indians, who will advance to the state playoffs against Poyen on Nov. 14.
"We played hard," Rector head coach David Hendrix said. "They're a talented team and we let them get away there a few times."
The Cougars wrap up the season with an 0-9 record in their first year of varsity competition since 2009. While losses are tough for any program looking to compete, the season was full of learning opportunities for a team desperately seeking experience in high school football. Fans of the program can find success in the return of the program and the hard work of the young men who made the rejuvenation possible.
"Our guys worked hard to get back here, and they're going to keep getting better," Hendrix said. "We're back. Football is back in Rector. Now, we're going to keep working and build it up. There's still a lot of work to be done. We're going to bust our tails and be back again next year. The days of overlooking Rector football are over."
Hendrix extended thanks to his players for their efforts during the season, as well as the support of the parents and fans within the community.
It's no easy task to rebuild a program which teetered on the brink of dormancy. On behalf of the community, this reporter would like to thank the players and coaches for their hard work.