Cougars Drop Home Conference Game to Salem
The Rector Cougars returned to the friendly confines of Paul Temerian Field Friday night. The previous week the boys in blue had put up a good fight at EPC, only to fall victim to late Warrior touchdowns. This week the task was even more daunting, as the potent Salem Greyhounds came to town for a 2A-3 conference showdown. For Coach David Hendrix and the squad, the contest was defined by several early missed opportunities, as they hung with their visitors for much of the first half of play.
Prior to the contest the Cougar faithful had enjoyed a tail gating event outside the east end zone, and the nearby sports athletic complex hosted an open house, accounting for a large crowd.
Winning the coin toss, the visitors chose to receive the opening kickoff in hopes of taking an early lead. As they had in earlier games, they turned to running back Jordan Turner (825 yards in the first three games) to provide the offensive spark. He picked up 11 yards on his first carry, then the Cougar defense stiffened and forced Salem to punt the ball away on a fourth and nine.
Max Ford called for a fair catch, and the Cougars set up shop on the 10 yard line for their first drive. On first down quarterback Parker Bucy fired a dart to Evan Dooley in the left flat, but the Rector receiver couldn't hold on to the ball. Dooley then tried a sweep left, losing about a yard in the process. The third down play was more of the same, as Ford dropped the pass at the 25. Facing fourth down, Rector's Clayton Morgan launched a good punt from near his own end zone. Salem's Hunter Taylor snagged the punt and got a strong return, with Morgan helping with the touchdown-saving tackle at the five.
With their backs against the wall, the Cougar defense once again rose to the occasion as they stuffed Turner on first down, and defended well on second and goal. Swarming the ball carrier on third down were Trace Sanders, Gage Parrish and Kale Hardin, forcing a fourth down play by the Greyhounds.
Penalized for a hold, the Greyhounds launched a pass to the corner of the end zone, which fell incomplete giving the ball back to the Cougars.
Hardin got five tough yards on first down, but a holding penalty on second down backed the Cougars up. Bucy came up short on an attempt to Patterson on third down, forcing Morgan to punt once again. This time the Greyhounds set up shop on the Cougar 38 yard line, taking over with 5:48 to go in the first.
On first down the Greyhounds turned it back over, as Ford recovered a Salem fumble. On the ensuing play he gave it back to the visitors, as the ball was knocked from the running back's hands and recovered by a Greyhound.
Moments later Taylor would draw first blood for Salem, scoring from 15 yards out to make it 6-0. Turner got the nod for the two point conversion attempt, but was dropped by the Cougars short of the goal line.
At this point the game turned in favor of the visitors, as the Greyhounds dribbled an on-side kick and recovered it to maintain possession. Moving the ball quickly downfield, Salem scored less than two minutes later on a 34 yard touchdown pass to Taylor to make it 12-0. Once again going for two, the Greyhound pass attempt was long and the score stood.
On the ensuing kickoff Rector's Joseph Baker got a good return, as the Cougars set up shop near mid-field as the quarter wound down. As the first quarter ended they continued to try to mount a scoring drive, aided by a pass interference call on a pass intended for Dooley.
Rector began the second quarter with an incomplete pass, forcing Morgan to again punt the ball back to the Greyhounds. This time Turner would break a long run for the visitors, as he carried the ball from the Cougar 38 in for a touchdown with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half. Turner again got the nod on the two point conversion attempt, and again the Cougar special teams was up to the task, as they dropped him short to keep the score at 18-0.
On the following drive, Taylor picked-off a Bucy pass and the Greyhounds took over once again. Ford provided good defense on first down, nearly picking off the Salem pass, and on third down Zac McCluskey led the charge to drop Turner for a loss. This set up a fourth down draw to Turner, which the Cougar defense sniffed out, getting the ball back on downs.
Still unable to move the football, the Cougars were forced to punt once again a short time later. Turner got a good gainer on first down, but the Greyhounds coughed-up the ball on second down and Patterson recovered for Rector.
This time it was the Salem defense which rose to the occasion, as they forced yet another Rector punt with just under four minutes to play in the first half. The Greyhounds once again tested the Cougar defense, and the home team again forced a fourth down situation. This time it was Sanders who led the charge, as the Rector defense continued to make big plays.
With time running down in the first half, the Cougars tried to take advantage of the situation as they moved the ball into Salem territory. Hardin got a good catch and run, but Bucy was flushed and forced to throw it away with 35 seconds to play in the quarter. The Rector QB was caught in a Salem blitz on the following down, and dropped for a loss as time expired.
The Cougars would get the football first in the second half, and thanks to a couple of Salem penalties, moved the ball to around midfield. Facing third and short, Bucy was dropped on the slant, setting up a fourth down play for Rector. But, the Greyhound defense held their ground and the ball went over on downs to Salem.
Turner would get his second long touchdown run moments later, carrying the ball 80 yards down the Rector sideline for the score with 6:22 left in the third as the score moved to 24-0.
On the following possession the Cougars got good runs from Ford and Dooley, but the drive began to sputter deep in Salem territory. After missing on a pass attempt to Patterson, Bucy fired a strike to Ford in the Greyhound end zone for a Rector touchdown. The two point conversion attempt to Morgan was no good, as the Greyhounds led 24-6 late in the third quarter.
Just minutes later Salem would answer again, as Turner carried the ball in from 35 yards out to make it a 30-6 game with 1:13 left in the third. This time the two point conversion was good, setting the final score at 32-6.
As the third quarter drew to a close the Greyhounds again went for the onside kick, although this time the ball didn't carry far enough and the Cougars took over with good field position. That drive was short-lived though, as the Greyhounds picked-off Bucy moments later with just seconds left in the third.
Facing a number of Salem subs, the Cougars continued to try to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter but were unable to find much running room. In turn, the Greyhound second string offense made an appearance and couldn't find an answer for the Rector defense. The result was a back-and-forth fourth quarter which netted no additional scoring as the game ended at 32-6.
With the loss the Cougars fall to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play while the Greyhounds move to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in 2A-3 action. This week the Rector squad will once again play at home as they take on 3A Yellville-Summit in a non-conference game. The Panthers are currently 1-4 on the season, and last week lost a 56-20 home game to Harding Academy. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.