Coach John Elliott summed up Ballard Memorial’s 41-35 loss to Massac County this way, “It was a bad night for Bomber football.” He added, “I am not pleased with anything that took place at all from the time the game started until the game ended. I cannot think of anything I am happy about.”
The game started well enough for the Bombers as they took their second possession and marched 72 yards on 10 plays for a score. Alek Hugen handled much of the duties as he had five carries for 24 yards. The key play was a 16 yard pass from Trevor Langston to Ethan Dunning on a 3rd and 10 play for the Patriot 20 yard line. Hugen completed the drive with a four yard touchdown run to give the Bombers the 7-0 lead with 4:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Bomber defense held the Patriots on the next series forcing a turnover on downs at the Bomber 30 yard line. The Bombers drove to the Patriot 46 yard line where they faced a 4th and one. Langston tried a quarterback keeper, but the officials marked him a half yard short of the first down to give the ball back to Massac. The Patriots responded by going 55 yards on six plays that ended with a wide open 24 yard touchdown completion to tie the game at seven. The Bombers tried to head to the locker room with some momentum as they scored on a 14 yard Langston to Wesley Boulton touchdown pass with 59.2 seconds remaining in the half. However, the defense could not stop the Patriots who took just 35 seconds to go 66 yards to tie the game again at 14 all at the half. The big play was a 40 yard reception on the first play to move the ball to the Bomber 26 yard line.
The quick strike Patriots started the second half right where they left off. They completed a 31 yard pass on their first play, and a 15 yard horse collar tackle penalty on the play moved the ball to the Bomber ten yard line. Two plays later and 17 seconds into the second half, the Patriots claimed their first lead of the game at 21-14. The Bombers would knot the game up at 21 all on a 35 yard strike from Langston to Devoun Bledsoe. The Bomber’s defense made a big play as they caused the Patriots to turn the ball over on downs at their own 36 yard line. Langston found Zack McAfee down the middle of the field for a 34 yard touchdown reception to give the Bombers the lead back a 27-21. The point after attempt failed.
The turning point of the game happened on the next Patriot possession which started the downward spiral for the Bombers. The Patriots moved the ball to the Bomber five yard line setting up a first and goal. Dunning hit the running back for a five yard loss, and then Austin Wildharber and Shawn Johnson combined for another hit in the backfield to force the Patriots into a 3rd and goal from the twelve yard line. Dunning then did a nice job to knock down the pass to force a fourth down, however he was flagged for a controversial pass interference call. This gave the Patriots a 3rd and goal from the four instead of fourth down at the twelve. The Patriot running back was awarded touchdown on a close play near the goal line that appeared he may have been held just short of the goal line. The point after attempt provided the Patriots with the 28-27 lead. The Patriots would intercept a Langston pass and return it for a touchdown, but the touchdown was brought back for a push in the back penalty after the interception. Since the penalty was after the interception, this allowed the Patriots to retain possession. The Bomber defense would make a stand and force a Patriot punt.
On the Bomber’s possession, Langston would connect with Dunning on a 45 yard reception to put the Bombers into scoring territory. Facing a 2nd and 13 from the Patriot 16 yard line, Langston found Bledsoe again for another go ahead touchdown, however the Bombers were flagged on the play for an illegal player down the field to negate the score. The Bombers were also flagged for an unsportsman like conduct penalty which added another 15 yards to the initial penalty. This pushed the Bombers outside of field goal range and they could not convert on the 4th and 22 causing a turnover on downs. Facing a 3rd and eight from their own 42 yard line, the Patriot running back found a hole in the Bomber defense and scampered 58 yards for the score to extend the lead to 35-27. The Bombers made a decision to go for it on a fourth and 5 from their own 25 yard line with just over seven minutes remaining, but the Langston pass to Blesdoe fell incomplete. Elliott indicated that is a play he wished he had back saying, “I should have punted but I just did not feel good about our defense in that situation.” With their backs against the wall, the defense did respond and would cause a turnover on downs to give the Bomber offense a chance with about five minutes remaining. Langston connected with Boulton on a fourth and 14 play at the Bomber 14 yard line to keep the Bomber’s hopes alive. However the next pass for Langston was intercepted and returned 36 yards for a deflating touchdown to give the Patriots a 41-27 lead with just over four minutes remaining. The Bombers kept at it and tallied another score as Hugen scored from four yards out with 2:22 remaining to cut the lead to eight. McAfee made a nice grab in the end zone from Langston to complete the two point conversion to cut the lead to 41-35. The Bombers attempt to get the ball on the kickoff was spoiled by the Patriots who grabbed the ball. Facing a 3rd and 10 from their own 44, the Patriots went to the air. It appeared that several of the linemen for Massac moved before the snap, but the play continued and resulted in a 20 yard reception that sealed the Patriot 41-35 victory.
“We were allowing everything else to affect us and we lost our composure and our cool,” said Elliott following the game. He added, “We had all that energy focused on something negative instead of something positive and it was just bad.” The Bombers have a week off before traveling to Union County for the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. “We’ve got to get over this and not blame the officials,” said Elliott adding, “The officials were not the ones dropping passes, missing tackles, missing blocking assignments. The focus needs to be on us and what we need to do instead somebody else.”