Sep 29, 2017
By Chase Gage
BROOKLAND, ARK. – The Bearcats fell four points short in a Homecoming thriller. The Highland Rebels escaped with a 34-30 win Friday night in the 4A-3 matchup.
Turnovers doomed the Bearcats from the start.
On the opening kickoff, the Rebels attempted an onside kick but were unsuccessful. Brookland took over at midfield. They started off on the wrong foot, though, as senior Luke Hillis fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The Rebels recovered.
On their first drive, Highland marched 62 yards down the field. The drive was punctuated by a 12-yard touchdown from sophomore quarterback Dylan Tharp with 7:27 left in the opening quarter. Highland took an early 7-0 lead.
Brookland responded with a long drive of their own, but it ended a little differently. On first down from the Highland 19-yard line, quarterback Reid Lane was sacked for an 11-yard loss. On the next play, the Bearcats made up those 11-yards to set up a 3rd and 10 from the 19-yard line. However, on the next play, the snap flew over Lane’s head, resulting in a 21-yard loss. The Bearcats were up against a 4th and 31 from the 40-yard line. They went for it.
Lane’s pass was caught at the nine-yard line by Hillis, but he was ruled out of bounds by the official. Highland took over at the 40-yard line as Brookland inflicted themselves with yet another wound.
Highland’s second drive ended in a similar fashion to their first. The Rebels drove 60-yards and scored on a 21-yard pass to sophomore Colby Hopkins with 9:36 left in the second quarter. Highland was up 14-0.
Brookland wasn’t going to roll over and give up, though. The ensuing kickoff was returned from the 15-yard line inside Highland territory, where the returner was finally brought down at the Rebel 45-yard line.
The Bearcats were on the move and set up inside the 10-yard line. They looked poised to score, until disaster struck again. Lane punched it up the gut to the goal line, but was stripped inside the one-yard line. Highland recovered the ball and returned it to the six-yard line. The ball carrier was dragged down by his shoulder pads and then a Bearcat player shoved down a Highland player after the whistle. This resulted in a horse-collar penalty and a personal foul on the Bearcats, resulting in the Rebels taking over at their own 37-yard line.
Luck was finally on Brookland’s side. Dylan Marsh intercepted Tharp at the Brookland 28-yard line. The Bearcats failed to score after, but they prevented a third score off of a turnover before the half.
The Rebels held their 14-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
The second half was full of big plays and points. The Bearcats stopped the Rebels on their first drive and took over at the 50-yard line. Brookland drove all the way down the field and punched in their first score of the night when Hillis scampered in from three yards out. The two-point conversion was good, and Brookland cut the lead to 14-8 with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
Highland responded with a one-minute drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown to senior Brayden Matty. With 5:53 left in the third, the Rebels held a 20-8 lead.
Brookland responded with a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of the next drive when Marsh took it down the left sideline, outrunning the entire Highland defense. The Rebels’ lead was cut to 20-14 with 5:39 left in the third.
After two touchdowns on two plays from scrimmage, Highland decided to shake it up a bit. The Rebels ran the kickoff back 87-yards for a touchdown, accounting for the third score in as many plays. The two-point try was successful and the Rebels took a 28-14 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
After all that action, the game went nearly 11 minutes without a score. With 6:17 left in the game, Lane led the Bearcats down the field and punched in a two-yard touchdown of his own. The two-point conversion was good and the Bearcats faced a 28-22 deficit.
The Bearcats went for the onside kick and recovered thanks to a perfectly executed kick and a great athletic play to catch the ball in Highland territory.
The Bearcats again drove down the field, but faced a 4th and Goal from the one-yard line. With the game on the line, Marsh punched in the one-yard touchdown. With the two-point conversion, the Bearcats took their first lead of the game with only 4:05 left in the game, 30-28.
Highland responded in a big way. After a 30-yard pass to Matty, the Rebels had a first down inside the five-yard line. With 37 seconds left in the game, Highland punched it in on a quarterback keeper to the left side. Highland reclaimed the lead at 34-30.
With just over 30 seconds left, the Bearcats had one last chance for a miracle.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bearcats dropped the ball and the Rebels fell on it. After one play from the victory formation, the game ended. Highland held on to win 34-30 to spoil Brookland’s Homecoming night. Turnovers doomed the Bearcats in the beginning and again in the end.
Highland (1-4, 1-1 4A-3) got their first win after struggling to start their season. Brookland (3-2, 0-2 4A-3) dropped their second-straight game after their 3-0 start.
Next week the Bearcats will travel to Pocahontas to face the Redskins and the Rebels will host the Hornets from Harrisburg.
– All photos via Jeremy Nuckles on Facebook.com-