Bulldogs escape Raider attack
For the second time in the past two weeks the Raiders had a chance for a dramatic come from behind victory – only to see the opportunity slip away at the hands of the Clinton County Bulldogs.
Control of the game could have hinged on one play; that had it had gone different, could have improved the Raiders’ record to 2-1 instead of dropping to 1-2.
Trailing 30-25 with about three minutes left in the game, the McCreary defense had stopped Clinton County around mid field, and were prepared to get the ball back after a Bulldog punt.
Everything went according to plan, except for one thing. A McCreary player inadvertently hit the Clinton County punter on the play, giving the Bulldogs 15-yards and fresh set of downs.
That was all they needed to run out the clock and spoil the Raiders’ home opener.
Coach Justin Bozeman was upbeat, despite the loss.
“I thought we played a good first quarter, but we got a little winded in the second,” he said.
“Our underclassmen did a good job,” he added. “They kept their poise at the end and almost turned the game around.”
“I’m proud of how our defense held strong at the end.”
Coach Bozeman waved off the crucial penalty, calling it a lesson to learn from.
“We weren’t supposed to rush on that play, but a couple of them decided to go in,” he said. “It was an accident, the player got shoved into the kicker. The kicker did a good acting job too, it wasn’t a big hit, but he did what he was supposed to do in that situation.”
Friday night was the home opener for the Raiders, and the players appreciated the extra attention from the community and supporters, Bozeman said.
But, he added, it may also have distracted the team a little.
“We may have lost sight of what we needed to do with all that was going on,” he said. “We will do a better job this week of getting ready.”
The Raiders scored on their first possession after the Bulldog opening drive stalled on their own 41-yard line.
A 26-yard pass from Hunter Jones to Brandon Troxell put McCreary on the 15. After a 5-yard Troxell run, Jones connected with him again on a 10-yard pass to put the Raiders up 7-0.
After a Bulldog punt on their next possession, the Raiders’ following drive stalled at midfield, and after a failed fake punt, Clinton County took over on the McCreary 49.
One play later, a 49-yard run, the Bulldogs were on the board. Clinton County failed to convert on the extra point try, and trailed 7-6.
A 43-yard kickoff return from Troxell put the Raiders in good position for their next series, starting on the Clinton County 38.
Six plays later, Jones connected with Nathan Goins on a 12-yard pass and catch for the Raiders’ second touchdown of the first quarter to increase their lead to 7, 13-6.
Clinton County responded with a 49-yard kickoff return, setting up a 4-play, 30-yard scoring drive, to pull back within one point of the lead.
The Raiders’ next series brought them within striking distance, but ultimately fizzled out on the Clinton 25 after a failed fourth-down conversion.
The Bulldogs started strong, gaining 21-yards on their first play, but lost the ball on the next snap, giving the Raiders the ball back on their own 29.
McCreary advanced to mid-field, but coughed up a fumble of their own, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.
One play later the Raiders’ lead evaporated as Clinton County connected on a 47-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 18-13.
McCreary was forced to punt after failing to get a first down on their next series, but Clinton County fumbled the catch, and Goins fell on the ball at the Bulldog 29, giving the Raiders another shot at the end zone.
Two incomplete passes and a run for a short loss put McCreary at 4th and 13 on the 32 when they tried another fourth down play. Troxell gained 6-yards on the run, but it wasn’t enough and the half ended with the Bulldogs in the lead.
McCreary took the ball first to open the second half but on the second play from scrimmage, Jones was picked off on the Raider 45 on a pass attempt. Clinton County returned the interception to the 18, and three running plays later, scored on a 5-yard run for a 24-13 lead.
The Raiders did better on their next drive, moving 47-yards on seven plays, scoring on a 2-yard Troxell run to pull back within 5-points, 24-19.
Clinton County answered with a 9-play scoring drive on their next possession and held a 30-19 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Raiders got a break in Clinton County’s drive to start the fourth quarter. After starting around mid-field, the Bulldogs advanced to the Raiders’ 8-yard line.
Facing fourth and 5, a Bulldog rusher broke free and made it nearly to the goal line, where he ran into Raider defenders. The ball came loose, and McCreary recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
Taking over on their own 20 after the fumble recovery, the Raiders were aided by two personal fouls called against Clinton County on consecutive plays. The first, a horse collar tackle, and a late hit penalty on the next play advanced the ball across midfield to the Bulldog 40.
Jones connected with Troxell on passes of 8 and 10 yards, and added a completion to Ryan Jones good for 5-yards, setting up a second and 5 from the 10-yard line.
Troxell finished the job with his second rushing touchdown, and third overall, pulling McCreary to within one score – 30-25.
With 5:32 left in the game and no time outs remaining, the Raiders attempted an onside kick in an effort to get the ball back, but Clinton County recovered the ball at the 49.
The Raiders kept Clinton County from gaining a much-needed first down on the first three plays, and the Bulldogs were their own worst enemy on fourth down, taking a delay of game penalty, backing them up five yards.
The next play was a punt, but the kicker got hit on the play and extended the drive.
The Raiders finished with 241 total offense, while Clinton County totaled 369, with all by 47 coming on the ground.
Troxell led McCreary rushers with 85-yards, followed by Goins with 12, Hunter Bryant with 10, R. Jones with 3 and H. Jones with -14.
H. Jones finished the game 16-28 passing for 145 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception.
Troxell finished with 51 yards receiving, followed by John Cash with 37, Goins with 37, R. Jones with 13 and Chevy Genoe with 7.
The loss dropped the Raiders record to 1-2 this season.
The Raiders will host the Providence Pioneers Friday night, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Providence, a Catholic prep school out of Indiana, enters the game with a record of 0-3 and have been outscored 102-20 this season.
Bozeman said he is not overlooking the Pioneers’ record, noting they are a fast and explosive team. Their defense, he added, will offer several different looks that his offense will have to counter.