It’s understood that football is a game of inches. Add one inch here, take away one there and it’s going to make a difference.
Turn those precious inches into penalty yards and they’re going to come back to bite you. And that’s what pretty much happened at Hornet Stadium Thursday night as Colcord gave up five yards here, ten yards there and ultimately the ballgame in a brutal 24-21 loss to Gentry.
One can only imagine the woulda, coulda, shoulda nightmares the Hornets are facing in light of the fact that they came away empty handed from back to back first and goal situations in their opening two possessions.
But despite the horrific start, this was a game that could have gone either way and was as fun to watch as any season opener has the right to be.
The Hornets kicked off to the Pioneers and held them to three and out before Chris Van Dyke returned the Gentry punt across midfield to the 28-yard line. Colcord backed up 10 yards as the result of a holding penalty, but quickly made that up when quarterback Canaan Sherrell (15 of 33, for 144 yards) connected with his receiver Rusty James for a 26-yard completion to the visitor’s nine-yard line.
With a first and goal the Hornet offense sputtered to eventually give up possession on downs, at the 11.
Gentry picked up a first down on Nick Weeks’s 11-yard plunge and moved the stakes a second time on a fourth and three when Colcord jumped offside.
And on the next snap Pioneer quarterback Caleb Ramsey found his wide receiver Justin Stewart behind the Colcord secondary for a 64-yard TD pass. Robbie White added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 6:35 to play in the first.
Colcord started their next series on their own 20 and strung together their best drive of the game. Overcoming three penalties, one of which was the first of the night’s three spurious blocking fouls, the Hornets used a dozen snaps to march inside the Gentry red zone.
And again penalty flags and a couple of incomplete passes forced them to give up the ball on downs.
After a Pioneer first down, Colcord’s defense, fueled by an eight-yard sack by Darwin Davis, stiffened and forced another punt to commence the second quarter.
The punt was muffed by the Hornet return man and recovered by the visitor’s Clint James, for a Pioneer first down near midfield. But another sack, this time by Chris Van Dyke on a fourth and seven, gave the ball back to Colcord.
But the Hornets fumbled the ball right back to their guests. And aided by Colcord’s seventh flag of the first half, Gentry drove to the 13, where Ramsey connected with Stewart for their second TD pass of the game.
The subsequent Hornet drive showed promise, but again thanks to penalties, they were forced to punt.
And Gentry appeared to be on the move again picking up three more of their seven first downs in the half. But that drive came to an abrupt halt when Ethan Shelley pounced on a fumble at midfield.
Shelley then took over on offense with three carries of five yards each, moving the ball to the enemy 10.
Sherrell and Dakota Place did the rest with a 10-yard touchdown pass and catch, with 29 seconds remaining in the half. The extra point failed as the contest went to the break with the Pioneers on top 14-6.
After trading possessions to start the third, the Gentry offense eventually took over on the Colcord 46. And following a timeout, Stewart’s throwing arm burned the Hornets with a 40-yard touchdown pass and run to his diminutive receiver, Mario Orozco. White’s PAT kick was true for a 21-6 score.
But after burning most of the third period on an exchange of failed drives, the Hornet’s got the big play they needed. With less than a minute to play in the frame, Colcord’s Caleb Backwater intercepted a Stewart pass, broke through the Gentry middle and out ran the secondary for a spectacular 60-yard touch down run. Sherrell found his tight end Jared Brazil for a successful two-point conversion.
With momentum clearly in their corner the Hornet defense shutdown the Pioneer offense on another three and out series.
Taking over on their own 45, the Hornets marched to the Gentry 34, where with 9:23 to play in the game, Colcord scored on a 34-yard Sherrell to Davis catch and run.
And to the delight of the Hornet faithful, Ethan Shelley knotted the score at 21 each with his successful extra point kick.
And the Colcord defense set the table for their offense when a jarring hit by Davis knocked the ball out of the Gentry receiver’s hands and into the waiting arms of Sherrell.
And on the heels of tht a 24-yard Sherrell to Place Hornet reception moved Colcord deep into Pioneer territory.
But a series of incomplete passes and another penalty forced the Hornets to relinquish the ball on downs.
Thanks to a big sack by Colcord’s Billy Perdue, Gentry moved back to a second and long. But Colcord was flagged for pass interference and on a fourth and four to go, they jumped offside for a Pioneer first down.
Stewart then promptly hit Orozco for a 38-yard gain. Colcord’s defense rose to the occasion and did not allow another first down. But Gentry’s kicker knocked down a 36-yard field goal that proved to be the 24-21 difference in the game.
Colcord will endeavor to regroup as they travel to Wyandotte next Friday.