The Springfield Catholic Fightin’ Irish got off to a good start against Reeds Spring at home Friday night but had to hold off an inspired Wolves team for a 21-18 victory.
The game pitted two of the top teams in the Central Ozark Conference-Small Division.
Catholic entered the game 2-0 in conference and 4-1 overall, while the only blemish on Reeds Spring’s record was a last-second loss to Marshfield. The Wolves came into the game with a 2-1 conference mark and 4-1 overall.
Reeds Spring wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as senior Dallas Dodson fielded the opening kickoff at the 5 yard line and returned it 47 yards to give the Wolves great field position at the Irish 48.
Eight plays later, junior fullback Anthony LaGrand punched it in from a yard out. The Wolves did not succeed on the 2-point conversion attempt and it was 6-0 Reeds Spring.
The Irish came right back with a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took nearly seven and a half minutes. Junior running back Cameron Skornia scored on a 5-yard run.
Sophomore kicker Brett Garner’s extra point was good and the Irish led 7-6. The Irish defense would stiffen and they held Reeds Spring to a 3 and out. The Wolves fumbled on the snap for the punt giving Catholic the ball at the Reeds Spring 19.
Six plays later, senior fullback James Whitlinger scored from a yard out and the Irish appeared to have the momentum.
Reeds Spring fumbled again on its first play of the ensuing series and Catholic recovered at the 15. The Irish incurred a penalty and sputtered on offense as the possession came up empty as Garner missed the field goal wide from 40 yards out.
The Wolves turnover problems continued as they fumbled again on the first play of the series. This time senior defensive tackle Ian Hall took matters into his own hands as he scooped the fumble and took it 12 yards for the touchdown.
Garner’s kick was good again and the Irish appeared ready to break the game wide open.
But both teams would struggle with turnovers and stunted drives until Reeds Spring found the end zone on a 1-yard plunge by junior quarterback Easton Flaugh.
Again the Wolves were unable to pick up the 2-point conversion attempt, something that would haunt them on this night as extra points by Catholic provided the Irish with the slim margin of victory.
Catholic led only 21-12 at halftime and even though they would not score again, they limited the Wolves to a single scoring play in the second half, a 31-yard touchdown pass from Flaugh to senior wide receiver Joey Longstreet with 4:27 left in the game.
“I was very proud of our players’ efforts tonight, but I’m a little disappointed in the execution,” said Wolves coach Brian Moler. “We did not take care of the ball. The lack of extra point conversions hurt us tonight and so did the turnovers and the breakdown of our pass protection.
“I was proud of the way our kids came back and kept battling, unfortunately things just didn’t go our way this evening.”
Reeds Spring dominated the stat sheet in the second half as they outgained the Irish in total yardage 220 yards to 70. For the game, Reeds Spring totaled 327 yards of offense to 179 for Catholic. Flaugh rushed for an even 100 yards on the night and scored a touchdown. He also passed for 96 yards and another score.
Springfield Catholic head coach Bobby Cornelison was glad to get the win.
“It wasn’t easy tonight. It looked like it could have gotten easier when they gave us a couple of turnovers. On two of them we had a short field and we couldn’t do anything with them,” he said. “Reeds Spring had their backs to the wall and they made some defensive stops. The second half they had our backs to the wall it seemed like the entire half and our kids stood up and made stops. Reeds Spring finally got that late touchdown and we hadn’t moved the ball the whole second half but we put a drive together and were able to run that clock down at the end.”
Skornia, who came into the game averaging over 140 yards rushing, was limited to 88 yards on 27 carries.
Catholic moves their conference mark to 3-0 and overall record to 5-1. Reeds Spring falls to 2-2 in COC play and 4-2 overall. Their two losses are by a total of four points.
Reeds Spring 6 6 0 6 - 18
Catholic 14 7 0 0 - 21
Reeds Spring – 9:29 Anthony Lagrand 1 yard run. Two point conversion run fails.
Catholic – 4:00 Cameron Skornia 5 yard run. Brett Garner kick.
Catholic – 0:12 James Whitlinger 1 yard run. Garner kick.
Catholic – 10:11 Ian Hall 12 yard fumble recovery. Garner kick.
Reeds Spring – 2:08 Easton Flaugh 1 yard run. Two point conversion pass fails.
Reeds Spring – 4:27 Joey Longstreet 31 yard pass from Flaugh. Two point conversion run fails.