The Ballard Memorial Bombers overcame a 14 point first quarter deficit and rallied for a 29-21 victory Friday night at Houston County, Tennessee. The nearly three hour bus ride over to the game appeared it would even be a longer ride home.
The Fighting Irish Hunter Moran had his Superman cape on in the opening seven minutes of the game. The senior started the scoring for Houston County as he raced 40 yards into the end zone on the Fighting Irish fourth play of the game to give the host a 7-0 lead.
The Bombers tried to answer, however, Ethan Dunning fumbled at the end of a 12 yard reception to turn the ball over the Houston County at the 12 yard line. The Irish provided the Bombers with the gift on the next play, as they fumbled the snap and Ballard Memorial’s Justin Polivick came up with the recovery at the ten yard line. Alek Hugen ran nine yards to set up a second and goal from the one. He took the next handoff right up the middle to tie the game at seven all.
Moran responded for the Irish as he broke three tackles and then cut back across the field for a 65 yard touchdown run to push the lead to 14-7. Moran was not finished. On the next Bomber series, he stepped in front of a Trevor Langston pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-7 with 5:05 remaining in the opening quarter. The Bombers were still sleep walking through the first half and after a three and out, the Fighting Irish took possession looking to put the game away. They converted on a third and 19 play at the end of the first quarter and moved the ball to the Bomber 21 yard line early in the second quarter. The Bomber defense made their first stand as they tackled Houston County quarterback Franky Rameriz for an 11 yard loss to set up a fourth and 19. Ramirez tried to redeem himself but came up three yard short, turning the ball over to the Bombers on downs. The Bombers lost seven yards on three plays setting up a punt. The Bomber punt went 11 yards to give the Irish the ball at the Bomber 20 yard line. The defense came up big and forced a 36 yard field goal attempt that went wide left. Andrew Burton stepped in for an injured Hugen and raced 41 yards on two carries. Langston tried to find Zack McAfee for a pass, but Moran intercepted his second pass of the half to stop the drive. The Bomber defense gave up one first down, but forced an Irish punt. The punt was a beauty as it went 45 yards, forcing the Bombers to start at their own one yard line. Dunning plowed his way for a four yard gain to get a little breathing room. On his second carry, Dunning broke into the Irish secondary and was racing down the Bomber side line when Moran caught him and forced him back to the inside. As Dunning was being tackled after the 60 yard run, he lost control of the ball for the fourth Bomber turnover in the half with 1:01 remaining. The Fighting Irish ran out the clock for the 21-7 halftime advantage.
Coach John Elliott said at halftime, “We’ve got to stop turning the ball over, make some plays, and tackle.” Langston said of the team’s first half performance, “We were not mentally strong at first, but we realized we needed to step it up.” And step it up they did. The Bombers opened the second half with a 13 play, 66 yard drive that consumed nearly half of the third quarter. Burton ran for 37 yards on a 3rd and nine, and he also caught a touchdown pass for 36 yards that was called back for an illegal push in the back. The Bombers did not let the nullified touchdown have a negative effect on them. Ballard Memorial converted on a third and six as Langston completed a seven yard pass to McAfee, and Dunning ran for four yards on a fourth and three plays to extend the drive. Langston finished the drive with a three yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 21-14 with 6:07 remaining in the quarter. The defense picked up where they left off as they held the Irish to a three and out to get the ball right back to the offense. The Bombers gained possession at the Irish 49 yard line. Burton ran for three yards and an additional 15 yards was added for an Irish personal foul. Langston connected with Devoun Bledsoe for 11 yards and then Dunning forced his way for 22 yards to move the ball to the one yard line. On the play, the Fighting Irish Ramirez was injured and was carted off the field. When play resumed, Langston ran a quarterback keeper into the end zone, and Austin Summers’ point after tied the game at 21 all with 3:01 left in the third. Both teams shot themselves in the foot on the next Houston County series. The Bombers were flagged for a personal foul that moved the ball to the Bombers 43 yard line. Facing a fourth and five, the Irish ran for a first down, but it was called back for a holding penalty. The Irish were forced to punt the ball away. This set up the game winning drive, which was full of big plays. Langston was sacked for a ten yard loss to set up a third and 20. He came right back and connected with Devoun Bledsoe for a 28 yard gain. Later in the drive, facing a third and 14, Langston connected with Dre Bledsoe on a slant for a first down. Bledsoe broke a tackle and then for the last five yards he carried Superman Moran on his back into the end zone for the Bombers first lead. “I wasn’t really thinking about catching and scoring,” said Bledsoe. He added, “I was just thinking about getting the first down. I kept sprinting to the edge of the pylon and he (Moran) grabbed me and tried to knock the ball out of my hands. He was on my back and I just took it to the house.” When asked if Moran nearly knocked the ball out of his hands, Bledsoe said, “He wasn’t that close. It’s Bomber strength baby.” The Bombers faked the extra point attempt and Langston hit Devoun Bledsoe for the two point conversion for the 29-21 advantage.
The Irish converted on a fourth a two and moved the ball into Bomber territory with under six minutes remaining, but Collin Garner and Conrad Hansen made a couple of sacks to force a turnover on downs. The Bombers were able to melt some of the time off the clock and punted the ball back to the Irish with 1:54 remaining. The Bomber defense was able to force four consecutive incomplete passes to secure the victory as Ballard Memorial improves to 6-2 on the year. “We just stepped it up and played harder, and played with more heart and intensity,” said Langston. “It was a great team effort, a total team win,” said Elliott as he added, “In my three years here, I would have to say this win, and the one in Crittenden County last year were two of the best.” The Bomber defense held Houston County to less than 50 yards offense in their last seven drives. Dunning led the rushing attack for Ballard Memorial with seven carries for 102 yards, Burton had eight rushes for 87 yards and Hugen had ten carries for 36 yards and a TD. Dre Bledsoe had one carry for one yard, Devoun had one carry for minus five yards, and Langston had three carries for minus 5 yards. Langston completed 10 of 20 pass attempts, including going 8 of 11 in the second half. He finished with 168 yards, one touchdown, and 2 INT. The leading receiver was Dre Bledsoe with the one catch for 52 yards that went for a touchdown, while Devoun Bledsoe with 3 receptions for 42 yards, and Dunning had two for 35 yards in the opening drive. Burton had two for 22 yards, with McAfee hauling in a pair of passes for eight yards, and Hugen added on catch for nine yards. Dre Bledsoe concluded saying, “It was a big win, I think it is a momentum booster and it’s going to put a lot of faith in our guy’s heads. “ The Bombers are home Friday night for their last home game of the year on Senior Night against district foe Crittenden County.