MEADOW BRIDGE — Summers County crossed the neighboring county line and dodged a last-ditch upset bid in securing a 20-18 win over rival Meadow Bridge Friday at Frank Arritt Stadium.
Class A No. 14 Summers County (4-2) went ahead of the host Wildcats, 20-18, on a 6-yard touchdown run by workhouse back Andre Merriam-Harshaw (23 carries for 147 yards on the night) early in the final period, but Class A co-No. 26 Meadow Bridge wasn't out of it.
After Wildcat defender Tyler Martin stepped in front of a Summers County pass in Wildcat territory and returned it to the Bobcat 32 with 3:07 to play, Meadow Bridge found itself in a position to regain the lead. One first down moved the chains to the 21, but a holding penalty on a run by quarterback Dustin Adkins pushed the ball back to the 30. Adkins then connected with Martin on a 9-yarder. However, two straight incompletions — including one in the end zone on fourth-and-10 — thwarted the Wildcats' hopes and handed the Bobcats the ball on downs with 1:02 to play.
"At the end, we get the interception and a good return and get it set up for an opportunity," said Meadow Bridge head coach Dwayne Reichard. "I felt like we had the quarterback run there and we got a hold, and I like to think it wasn't a hold. It forced my hand to have to go to something else at that point."
Meadow Bridge "just missed" on a pass to Hunter Claypool out of the backfield, then "had an opportunity to make a play on the ball (on fourth) and it slipped through our hands."
The intended receiver, James McClure, was "coming back for the ball trying to make a play and a defender (Summers County's Ian Gardner) on him. It's a tough situation. We went to the wire and had our opportunity against a daggone good football team."
Meadow Bridge (1-2) jumped out to a 12-0 lead on a pair of 1-yard Claypool TD runs in the first half, with the second score being set up by a Logan Hatfield fumble recovery.
But, the visitors responded with a 2-yard Merriam-Harshaw score on a drive which featured a 30-yard Merriam-Harshaw jaunt at the outset. That, combined with a PAT kick from Logan Fox, allowed Summers County to creep with 12-7.
Then, it was Fox doing the big damage right before the opening half ended when he raced 48 yards to the end zone on a counter play with 5.7 seconds left. His PAT allowed the Bobcats to carry momentum and a 14-12 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
"They (Meadow Bridge) certainly came well-prepared and with intensity," said Summers County head coach Chris Vicars. "They certainly wanted it more than us in the beginning.
"And we had to challenge our kids at halftime, and even in the second quarter. I'm proud of the way they responded in the second quarter.
"It's a big win. Our kids have a goal of making the playoffs. Here on out, the way our schedule works out, if we lose a game, playoffs are questionable. We've got to take advantage of every opportunity we can."
"It's a rivalry," he added. "Every time we come down here, it's a hard-fought game. Meadow Bridge has got tough-nosed kids and they play hard. We tried to tell our kids that. They weren't ready for it in the beginning, but in time we responded."
Reichard lamented the score right before halftime. "We watched them on film," he said. "We knew they were going to pound us on that long side of that single-wing and hit you with a counter every so often. We prepared for that. But when you got kids on the field and keep seeing that power play, power play, then here comes the counter. ... We got burned on it right before halftime for the touchdown. That was sort of the dagger in our hearts, but still we didn't hang our heads and came out in the second half and got a quick score.
"We still put ourselves in a position to win."
To open the second half, Meadow Bridge concentrated on its short passing game to soften the Summers defense, and Claypool eventually burst 30 yards down the Bobcat sideline for six points and an 18-14 Meadow Bridge lead.
"We were trying to work with our horizontal passing game to try to spread that defense and keep our running game going," Reichard explained. "It worked fairly good early, but they started to stack the box enough it made running the football difficult. In the second half, we were more into that short passing game and trying to do the same thing. We ran the ball less in the second half."
"We came out in the third quarter and gave up a quick score," Vicars said.
"We were in bad field position all night," he added. "Credit the way they played, and, No. 2, we just made a lot of mistakes. We didn't kick the ball off the way we wanted to, we fumbled the ball, we threw the interception at the end (and) should have never thrown the pass play."
Claypool had 19 carries for 82 yards and three TDs for the MB offense. He also had several timely tackles for his team's prevent unit. Martin and Rian Cooper had interceptions, and Hatfield logged a fumble recovery.
Adkins was 12-of-21 for 81 yards and one interception. Ayden Redden was the primary receiver, hauling in six catches for 52 stripes.
The Wildcats are slated for a home game with Montcalm at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23. It will be Meadow Bridge's homecoming.
Summers County is set to entertain Pocahontas County at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23.
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Summers County 20, Meadow Bridge 18
SC (4-2): 0 14 0 6 — 20
MB (1-2): 6 6 6 0 — 18
MB: Hunter Claypool 1 run (pass failed), 6-0, 4:14
MB: Claypool 1 run (pass failed), 12-0, 8:46
S: Andre Merriam-Harshaw 2 run (Logan Fox kick), 12-7, 4:27
S: Fox 48 run (Fox kick), 14-12, 0:05.7
MB: Claypool 30 run (pass failed), 18-14, 9:33
SC: Merriam-Harshaw 6 run (kick failed), 20-18, 9:49
RUSHING — SC: Andre Merriam-Harshaw 23-147-2, Willie Dodson 12-29, Logan Fox 5-65-1, Markis Crawford 10-36, Team 5-(minus-10). MB: Hunter Claypool 19-82-3, Ayden Redden 1-0, Dustin Adkins 5-23
PASSING — SC: Crawford 0-1-1-0-0, Dodson 0-1-1-0-0. MB: Adkins 12-21-1-81-0
RECEIVING — SC: None. MB: Tyler Martin 3-18, James McClure 1-4, Rian Cooper 1-4, Redden 6-52, Claypool 1-3
TAKEAWAYS — SC: Logan Fox (INT). MB: Logan Hatfield (FR), Rian Cooper (INT), Tyler Martin (INT)