Defense leads Carl Junction past Branson

By Greg Morse (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Carl Junction hosted Branson in a back-and-forth game on Friday night. The Branson Pirates and the Carl Junction Bulldogs kept the game close well into the second half with both defenses standing strong. Ultimately Carl Junction would pull away for a 28-7 win.

Both teams started off with back-to-back drives that ultimately ended with no points. Midway through the first quarter the Bulldogs got on the board first with a 1-yard touchdown by sophomore quarterback Alex Baker.

Two drives later, Carl was again driving down the field when Pirates senior Collin Andrews picked off Baker and returned the ball for 22 yards putting the Pirates in scoring position. Just a few plays later however, Carl Junction senior Tyler White intercepted Branson quarterback Gabe Sylvester at the five-yard line.

Branson held CJ on the ensuing drive and then marched back down the field. From the 35-yard line, Pirate junior Jay Hill took a draw play all the way to the endzone but fumbled on the one-yard line creating a pile-up in the endzone. The Pirates came up with the recovery for a touchdown and tying the game 7-7 with less than five minutes in the half.

Branson had a chance to score two drives later with the clock ticking down but an interception by Bulldog Junior Teagan Armentrout allowed Carl Junction to walk into halftime with a tie game. Armentrout would go on to have two more interceptions, giving him three on the night.

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“We came out, after having worked all week, and just did what we had to do on the field,” said Armentrout, “I plan on continuing to practice hard, keeping my teammates accountable [and] having them keep pushing me so we can continue to get better.”

Carl Junction came out of the half continuing to ride on the back of Senior Joe Kennedy who played a hybrid quarterback/running back role and taking most snaps out of the backfield while Baker played QB. Following a fumble by the Pirates, Kennedy capped off the Bulldogs’ fourth drive of the second half with a 12-yard rushing touchdown.

“The line opened up a lot of [holes] and especially the wide receivers, they put up a lot of good blocks. All that added blocking just helps open things up and makes it able to run the ball down field,” said Kennedy.

After several back and forth drives Armentrout got his third interception of the night with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs once again relied on Kennedy to get them down the field and he ultimately scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard carry with about five minutes left in the game to put the Bulldogs up 21-7.

The Bulldogs would score two drives later, on a five-yard run from Senior Kobe Maxwell. After recovering a Pirate fumble with under a minute left the Bulldogs closed out their final home game of the season 28-7.

Defense certainly played a crucial part in the matchup. Beyond the interceptions from both sides, Branson Senior Keigan Dougharty got the Pirates’ lone sack of the night. The Bulldogs also had six sacks on the night, four which came from sophomore Jesse Cassatt. Solid play from both sides led to a whopping 28 combined drives.

“Our defense played very well tonight. They caused [Branson] a lot of problems with things they hadn’t seen before. Our offense has also overcome a lot of adversity and was able to score off some turnovers thanks to our defense,” said Bulldogs Coach Buckmaster.

Carl Junction plays Joplin next week, while Branson heads home to face Willard.