By KATIE WIGGINS
News Sports Writer
The J.U. Blacksher Bulldogs beat their rival, the Excel Panthers, in overtime, Friday night. Cooper Dean kicked the game winning field goal for the second week in a row.
The Bulldogs played in Excel for the Panthers’ homecoming, in front of a packed house. The Panthers were predicted to win 35-14 with a record of 1-3 on the season. The Bulldogs went into the game undefeated, winning three area games.
The offensive captains for the night were seniors Cooper Dean and Jacob Bowman. The defensive captain was senior Dillan Baldwin.
In the first quarter, Excel kicked off to the Bulldogs. Blacksher fumbled on the first play and the Panthers recovered the ball. Excel put points on the board first for a score of 0-7, Excel. The Bulldogs weren’t down for long. With 3:45 left in the first quarter, Dean threw an 11-yard pass to Baldwin for a touchdown. Both teams struggled to hold on to the ball during the first quarter. The Panthers had a touchdown run called back due to a holding penalty, but were able to score with 45 seconds left in the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 7-14, Excel.
The second and third quarters were scoreless. The Bulldogs and Panthers had a host of penalties throughout the game, including personal fouls and targeting calls on both teams.
In the fourth quarter, an 82-yard pass from Dean to sophomore Justin Heffington tied the game 14-14. With 6:23 left in the fourth quarter, Blacksher opted for an onside kick, but Excel covered the ball. Excel moved the ball down the field to the 9-yard line. With 1:25 left on the clock, Excel attempted a field goal on 4th down. The kick was short. Blacksher took over and ran the clock down, sending the game into overtime.
Cooper Dean was the overtime captain. Blacksher won the coin toss and opted to defer the ball to Excel. Both teams started overtime play from the 10-yard line. Excel scored a touchdown, but it was brought back because of a holding call. On 4th down with 4 yards to go, Excel’s pass was broken up by senior Tanner Weaver. Blacksher took over and began their drive on the 10-yard line. On the second down, the Bulldogs looked to their field goal kicker, Cooper Dean, to put the game away. From the 15-line, Dean’s perfect kick broke Excel’s 8-year winning streak against J.U. Blacksher.
Weaver, who stopped the Panthers from scoring in overtime, gave a statement after the game, saying, “To play in Excel, to win in my senior season, and to be a part of the play to keep Excel from scoring, is just the greatest feeling ever. I am so proud that my teammates and I could pull off this victory.”
Dean gave a post-game statement, saying, “It was definitely the biggest win of our lives! It was so crazy getting a chance to beat our biggest rival with a field goal. Watching it sail through the uprights was so satisfying!”
Head coach Wes Sims said, “I couldn’t be more pleased and excited. It was a good win for our guys. I’m proud of these seniors that have been fighting for years.
This is the first time we beat them in a varsity game in a while. I’m proud of the kids and the coaches. The fans, cheerleaders, and the band did great. It was a good win for our community and our school. We had some mistakes that we could have fixed that were mental early in the first half. We put ourselves behind and there were some questionable calls at times, but I’m proud of our kids for responding to the adversity. Cooper Dean is a good kicker and this is two weeks in a row he has gotten to prove it.”
Alumnus and assistant coach Ethan Taylor, said, “I am proud of our team and the resilience they showed. These guys refuse to lay down and will themselves to win. Our mission was accomplished with a game winning field goal in overtime.”
On offense, Dean completed 8 out of 15 passes for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. Baldwin had 5 receptions for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. Heffington had 1 catch for 82 yards and 1 touchdown. KD Rabb had 2 catches for 20 yards. Bowman had 15 carries for 83 yards. Dean had 11 carries for 14 yards. Weaver had 3 carries for 19 yards.
On defense, Baldwin had 11 tackles, 4 for a loss, and a forced fumble. Jadaniel Nettles had 10 tackles, 1 for a loss. Logan Crosby had 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Bowman had 7 tackles, 1 for a loss. Rabb had 7 tackles, 1 for a loss, and a fumble recovery.
J.U. Blacksher travels to St. Luke’s for another area game on Friday, October 6.