Hornets foil Devils' hopes

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Great Falls falls at Ware Shoals

By The Staff

There was repeat of last year’s regular-season success and a repeat of the all-out effort, but there won’t be a repeat of last year’s Class A Upper State championship for the Great Falls Red Devils.

Some big plays, a few mistakes and some questionable calls led to a 31-21 loss Saturday for the Devils at Ware Shoals in a second round playoff.

The Devils struck first. Facing fourth-and-long from the Ware Shoals 40, coach Kenneth Schofield decided to roll the dice, going for it instead of punting and playing for field position. The gamble paid off big-time, as quarterback Gaither Bumgardner rolled to his right and found Keitron Johnson streaking down the sidelines. He dropped a perfectly thrown pass into the hands of Johnson, who was finally pushed out of bounds inside the Ware Shoals 5. Two plays later, Terrence Jeter banged it in for a touchdown. Bumgardner’s extra point gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.

The Hornets responded with a big play. Wingback Ladarius Hawthorne capped an 88-yard, seven-snap drive with a 54-yard touchdown run. A try for two failed, leaving the score at 7-6.

After a short kickoff, the Devils took over near midfield and drove inside the Hornets’ 20 with a 10-play, five-minute drive. Walter Lamar kept the drive alive with a 10-yard gain on a third-and-long play, and Great Falls looked ready to expand its lead. A fumbled handoff put the ball on the ground and WSHS recovered  to end the threat.

The Hornets struck quickly again with Hawthorne. Quarterback Jake Amick bought some time in the pocket on the first play of the ensuing drive and lofted a long pass down the sideline toward Hawthorne. Bracketed by a pair of defenders, Hawthorne was able to out-jump two Devils for the ball. He then turned upfield and gained more yardage before being tackled after a 59-yard gain. Four plays later, he plowed into the end zone from eight yards out for a score. Another try for two was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 12-7.

Great Falls turned the ball over on its next drive, but it set up a score. A long Bumgardner pass was picked off, which set Ware Shoals up at its own 20. After a pair of short runs, the Hornets tried to run the ball up the middle, but it squirted out of a big pile-up. Isaiah Lynn scooped it up and raced 24 yards for a score. The Devils went for two, with Bumgardner tallying to reclaim the lead at 15-12.

As was the case all night, Hawthorne made a play when his team needed one. After driving to Great Falls’ 10, Ware Shoals had a drive stall. They lined up to try a short field goal, but Hawthorne, who was the holder, jumped up and scrambled to his right before lofting a pass to the end zone. Though there was ample pushing in the end zone, no flag was thrown as Desmond Spikes snared the throw. A try for two again failed, but the Hornets led 18-12 just before the half.

The Devils quickly moved into Hornets territory and were set to try a long field goal. However, officials would not allow the Devils to call a time-out to set up for the try, claiming the team was out of timeouts, when in fact it was not. The Devils didn’t get off the kick off, leading to a lengthy conference between the officials and Schofield at the half.

Great Falls appeared to take the lead on its first drive of the second half. A 37-yard scamper by A.J. Squirewell moved the team into scoring position. Three straight runs put the Devils two yards from the goal line. On fourth-and-goal, Jeter took the hand-off and ran into a large  pile of players. He appeared to cross the goal line in the process. The officials huddled for several minutes before deciding not to award him the touchdown. Ware Shoals took over inside the one and drove 99 yards for another touchdown. The final 65 yards were covered on an Amick to Hawthorne pass. Another two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but the Hornets lead swelled to 24-12.

Great Falls pieced together a 9-play, 53-yard drive in response. Jeter left no doubt this time, scoring on a 5-yard run. The extra point was missed though, leaving the score at 24-21.

The problem for Great Falls in the fourth was an inability to get the Hornets off the field. Ware Shoals mounted a drive that consumed more than seven minutes. The Hornets were aided on the drive by another questionable call when on fourth-and-short, Ware Shoals wasn’t called for what should have been obvious motion penalty. They ended up converting and eventually scored the game’s final points.

Great Falls mounted a late drive, but eventually turned it over to end the game.

The officials were the topic of much fan  discussion after the game. Schofield said he was disappointed in some of the calls, but chose instead to laud the effort of his team.

“They played their hearts out,” Schofield said. “I think we played Ware Shoals strong enough to beat them.”

Schofield also thanked his senior class.

“I’m going to miss them incredibly,” Schofield said. “They were a great class.”

Schofield also complimented Ware Shoals, calling them “a very good, well-coached team.”

Hawthorne had 250 of his team’s 410 yards. Jeter and Squirewell both topped 60 yards rushing for the 8-4 Devils.