The final home game of the year started on a joyous note as the Raiders honored their graduating seniors, and remained hopeful as McCreary stayed close with the visiting Pioneers from Thomas Walker High School throughout most of the game.
However, the Pioneers scored three late touchdowns in just over two minutes to distance themselves from the Raiders, claiming their second win of the season and sending McCreary to their fourth loss in a row with a 38-18 victory.
The Raiders had a balanced attack, gaining 137 yards off the rush and 138 in the air for a total of 275 yards of offense, but the Pioneers ground game proved too much for the beleaguered defense to handle – totaling 360 yards on the rush alone to only 24 in the air.
Brandon Troxell scored a rushing TD for the Raiders and led the team with 54-rushing years. Ryan Strunk also scored on a rush and totaled 40-yards on the ground. Chevy Genoe caught one pass for a touchdown and led the squad with 69 receiving yards on five catches.
The game opened with promise for the Raiders as their opening drive took them all the way to the Pioneer 21 before a big defensive stop on fourth-and-1 turned the ball over on downs.
The McCreary defense returned the favor on the Pioneers’ first series, stopping their drive at the 34 and getting the ball back without any damage done.
A three-and-out gave Thomas Walker the ball back on the McCreary 39 with 4:43 left in the first quarter. An 18-yard pass brought the Pioneers to the Raiders’ 7, when a crucial mistake cost the home team.
After a stop for no gain, the defense made another stand on second down, and the Pioneers were called for holding. The McCreary sideline was not aware of the flag, and the defense declined the penalty, which would have backed Thomas Walker up 10-yards. Two plays later the Pioneers punched the ball across and converted the extra point attempt for an 8-0 lead.
The bad luck continued on the ensuing kickoff as a fumble on the return gave Thomas Walker the ball back on the McCreary 26.
On the first play of the second quarter the Pioneers held a 14-0 lead after a 21-yard touchdown run.
After a Raider punt pinned the Pioneers back at their own 18, Quarterback Jake Davis broke free for a 71-yard run, putting his team on the McCreary 10-yard line.
Two plays later they added their third score of the half and held a 20-0 advantage.
The Raiders came back strong following the score, punching the ball in with 6:17 left in the half with a 30-yard touchdown run from Ryan Strunk to cut the lead down to 20-6.
The Raiders got another chance after the Pioneers’ next drive was ended with a fumble, giving McCreary the ball back at the 48. But the Raiders hopes of punching in a final score in the half ended with an interception, the first of 7 McCreary turnovers in the game.
In the second half the Raiders kept the game close by preventing a Pioneers score in the third quarter, and adding a touchdown of their own on a 16-yard run from Brandon Troxell near the end of the period to cut Thomas Walker’s lead down to 8, 20-12.
McCreary kept momentum after their score by forcing a Pioneer fumble on their second play from scrimmage, recovering the ball on the Pioneer 45 with 39 seconds left in the quarter.
The Raiders couldn’t move the ball on a fourth-and-long conversion attempt, turning the ball over on downs near mid-field.
Thomas Walker advanced all the way to the McCreary 7-yard line before the Raider defense came up with a huge stop, preventing a score and gaining the ball back with 7 minutes left on the clock.
The Raider luck turned sour on the next series, however.
A bad exchange between Jones and Strunk led to a fumble on their own 20, with a Pioneer player falling on the loose ball and taking possession.
One play later the Pioneers padded their lead with a 20-yard touchdown run from Quarterback Jake Davis to take a 26-12 lead with 5:33 left in regulation.
The Raiders were hit hard by penalties on their next drive, putting an early end to what looked to be a promising start to a comeback.
After back-to-back completions of 25 and 17 yards to Chevy Genoe put the Raiders at the 28, a holding penalty and a false start pushed them back to midfield, where the drive stalled and the ball was turned over on downs.
Davis hit McCreary hard again, breaking off a 49-yard run on the first play after the turnover, blowing past defenders for a score that put the game away, 32-12.
But the Pioneers weren’t done yet.
Following the kick off, the Raiders took over at their own 44, but on the first play Jones was intercepted around the 50, and the Pioneer defender ran the ball back to the endzone for their third touchdown in 2:08 to take a commanding 38-12 lead.
The Raiders put together one final drive, relying on the passing game to add one last score.
Jones connected with Genoe for a 23-yard completion with 1:30 left in the game, pulling within 20-points of the lead, but the Pioneers kneeled out the clock the rest of the way to seal the victory.
This Friday the Raiders wrap up their season with a tough road trip to Harlan.
The Green Dragons (7-2) are coming off a 43-36 loss to Pineville last week. Harlan has averaged about 44 points per game this year, while holding opponents to only 22.