No. 1 Scott makes its point(s)
For all of the hype leading up to Friday night's Class AA showdown between No. 1 Scott and No. 2 Sissonville, one of the biggest differences in the outcome was something no one mentioned.
It wasn't so much about how the Indians and Skyhawks got to the end zone, it was what they did afterward.
By the time Scott's Dezmond Cordero Lopez drilled his third extra-point attempt in three tries with under four minutes to play, he'd extended the Skyhawks' lead to an all-important nine points.
Sissonville missed an extra point kick, run and pass and that one little extra tally at the end made all the difference in the world for Scott. In the end, the Skyhawks used their vaunted rushing attack in overcoming a halftime deficit to earn a 27-18 win at Sissonville.
Skyhawks coach Shane Griffith, who had seen his team fall several times due to a shaky kicking game in past years, was beaming after Friday night's affair.
"I've not had that in 13 years, that's huge," Griffith said of the kicking game.
To say it all came down to extra points would be an injustice to a game that lived up to every bit of its billing.
The Indians, playing before a capacity homecoming crowd, had their moments and were just a couple of missed opportunities away from flipping the script.
Thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Austin Crawford to Nathan Miller and a 16-yard scoring run by Crawford, Sissonville had a 12-7 lead, momentum and the ball just before the halftime break.
Facing a fourth down on Scott's 43-yard line, Indians coach Eddie Smolder trusted the Crawford-Miller connection again. It played out perfectly as Miller streaked behind the Skyhawks defense and Crawford delivered a spiraling touch pass, but Miller dropped it and it seemed like some of the air came out of the stadium.
Scott didn't take advantage before halftime, but an adjustment at the break led to a steady dose of debilitating ground-and-pound that allowed Scott to control clock, eat up yardage and most importantly score the points it needed to win the game.
"We knew we were coming in against a team that's excited - and they should be excited," Griffith said. "Coach Smolder has done a great job getting this program in place. But we told our guys, 'At some point in time, the maturity, the experience and the execution should start to take over.' In the first half, we tried a few things, second half we came out and did what we do and ran the clock."
The numbers were there to back up Griffith's statement. The Skyhawks ran 31 offensive plays in the second half compared to 17 for Sissonville, including an 18-6 advantage in the third quarter.
Benefiting from the extra time to work were running backs Robert Bias and Cameron Loftus, who combined for 230 yards on 25 carries after the break and all three second-half touchdowns.
Loftus gave the Skyhawks the lead on a 21-yard scamper on Scott's opening possession of the half. Bias added a 27-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter and Loftus' 59-yard rumble set up Lopez's final and game-sealing kick.
"I was like, 'Oh, home run,'" Loftus said of his final run. "I stiff-armed the first guy and broke the second tackle and I thought I was going to go down because I started getting cramps in my legs."
Few could blame him - or his legs - after rolling up 180 yards on 19 carries. Bias chipped in 143 on 23 rushes.
"They do what we ask them to do - straight ahead, north-south, trust the line," Griffith said of his backs. "It's not a fancy offense, but keep it simple and do what you do.
"We said Monday, 'Part of stopping [Trent] Stowers and their offense was keeping ours on the field.' It may not be exciting, it's not fancy, and sometimes fans fall asleep. But it works."
Stowers ran hard, especially early, and led the Indians with 98 yards on 13 carries. But he was limited to just 16 yards on six rushes in the second half.
"We're very disappointed," Smolder said. "A loss is tough. We expect to win them all, but we just came up short tonight. Give Scott credit, they played hard we just came up short. I'll take full responsibility for this but we're going to bounce back from it. Our kids have a lot of heart and a lot of guts, our coaches have a lot of pride, and they're very bought in to our program."
Crawford ran for 66 yards on six carries, mostly thanks to a 68-yard touchdown gallop to answer Bias' fourth-quarter score, bringing the Indians within 20-18. He finished 6 of 12 passing for 102 yards and an interception through the air.
Triston Crone had a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter to start the scoring for Scott and give the Skyhawks a 7-6 advantage after one quarter.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.