Hornets lose first round heartbreaker
Coach Brian Ford’s Loyd Star Hornets rolled into the first round of the playoffs riding a four-game win streak. The Hornets had relied on a solid running game with a stable of backs and a steady quarterback in Dane Smith. The Hornets (7-4) hosted the Mize Bulldogs (4-8) of Region 6-2A. The Bulldogs have historically been a solid force in football using a fiery offensive line and backs that were as fast as greased lightning. The game turned out to be a barn burner as the Bulldogs made just enough plays to eke out a 36-34 win over the Hornets.
Mize won the toss and deferred to the second half. Loyd Star took the opening kickoff at their own 45 but went three and out. Mize took their opening drive starting at their own 21-yard line. Quarterback Tyrese Ducksworth took it to the house from 74 yards out to give Mize a 6-0 lead at the 7:30 mark of the first quarter and Ducksworth added the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Hornets took possession of the ball at the 47-yard line and would move it to the 22-yard line before turning it over on downs. Mize scored on their next possession with Ducksworth taking it in form 11 yards out. The two-point conversion failed, and the Bulldogs led 14-0.
The Hornets took their next possession for an 81-yard scoring drive. Senior Jemario Clay set the Hornets up with a 51-yard run on the drive. Eric Birch took it the final 8-yards to make it 14-6. The PAT was no good.
Mize answered on their next possession when Ducksworth scored his third TD of the evening from 2 yards out. The PAT was no good and the Dogs led it 20-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Zach Nevels raced 87 yards for an electrifying Hornet touchdown and cut the lead to eight. Dane Smith with hit Zabien Price for the two-point conversion and the lead was six. The first half would end with the Bulldogs up 20-14.
The second half saw the Hornets turn up the heat on defense and force the Bulldogs to punt for the first time of the evening as the Hornets took over at their own 27-yard line. The Hornets scored on a 73-yard drive capped off by senior fullback Braden Ezell’s 47-yard scamper to paydirt. Loyd Star converted the two-point conversion and took their first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs answered back on offense and scored a TD on a 76-yard drive with Ducksworth scoring his fourth touchdown on a 19-yard run. Ducksworth would hook up with tight end Horton for the two-point conversion to give Mize a 28-22 lead.
Loyd Star would be forced to punt on their next possession and the Bulldogs scored again at the 10:01 mark of the fourth quarter with Fondarius Ducksworth scoring from three yards out. Tyrese Ducksworth would run the two-point conversion in and the Dogs led 36-22.
The Hornets took their next possession 55-yards for a score with Dane Smith covering much of that yardage including the final 13 for a touchdown. The Hornets two-point try failed and the Dogs led 36-28.
Mize would be forced to a three and out and the Hornets would take over at their own 13. The Hornets capped an 87-yard drive when Quan Berry took it the final five yards for a score that pulled Loyd Star within two points. The two-point conversion failed with Smith attempting to pass to Price. Mize would cover the onside kick attempt and run the clock out.
“We played hard,” said Ford. “Mize was a quality opponent even though their record didn’t indicate that. We had a great chance in the end. I am proud of our seniors and the entire team. We fought through much adversity. I am proud of our seniors and proud of being able to say we were division champs”.
Story by Ricky Myers
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