Bears hang on to defeat Loyd Star, 28-26
BROOKHAVEN — It was a rushing battle at Perry Miller Field on one of the first true “football weather” Friday nights in 2020, as the West Lincoln Bears defeated the Loyd Star Hornets, 28-26, in a divisional matchup. The win improves the Bears to 4-3, 2-1 on the year and drops the Hornets to 3-4, 0-3. West Lincoln travels to Bogue Chitto next week, while Loyd Star heads to Wesson to face the division-leading Cobras in a tough road matchup.
“This was a great team win for us tonight,” said West Lincoln head coach Brad Bland. “We are a gritty team, that fights, and doesn’t give up — this is just a great group of young men.”
There was no lack of scoring in the opening two quarters, as the teams’ first five drives all resulted in touchdowns. The Bears got things started on their first possession with a nine-play, 60-yard drive that was finished off by Chris Freeman from two-yards out. A failed extra point put the Bears up 6-0.
It took no time for the Hornets to hit back as Eric Birch took it 52-yards on the opening play on the ensuing drive to knot the game. Loyd Star went for two, but the try failed.
Not to be outdone, the Bears quickly recovered as Enrico Price responded with a 53-yard touchdown run on fourth and three. Price followed that with a run on a two-point conversion to put West Lincoln back on top, 14-6, with 4:18 remaining in the first quarter.
Birch had the Hornets back in the thick of it with a 20-yard rush on to open their second possession. Jontorion Smith set the team up with an 18-yard sweep, before Birch capped off the quick drive with back-to-back runs, the second from five yards out for the score. The two-point conversion was no good, making it 14-12 in West Lincoln’s favor with just 2:39 remaining.
West Lincoln grew the lead on the next possession as they capitalized on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Just two plays later, the Bears were in the end zone growing the lead 20-12, a score that would hold until halftime.
After an explosive first half for both teams, the defenses dug in their heels for the third quarter as West Lincoln forced the first punt of the night after turning over the opening possession of the half on a fumble. Going into the final 12 minutes, West Lincoln led the Hornets, 20-12.
In the fourth, West Lincoln was forced to punt for the first time in the contest. Loyd Star’s Austin Henderson returned it 23 yards to set up a short field for the Hornets with the drive starting at West Lincoln’s 30. Just three plays later, the Hornets cut the Bears’ lead to two, 20-18, with a run from Jontorion Smith.
West Lincoln pulled from the bag of tricks on the ensuing drive as an early third down was overcome with a hook-and-ladder from Freeman to Price for a 21-yard gain. Later in the drive, on fourth and one, an offsides penalty kept the drive alive, before a cleverly-timed reverse from Stephen Austin picked up 41-yards and put the Bears inside the Hornets’ five-yard line. Dylan Dickerson finished the drive from three yards out, and Price ran in the two-point conversion to grow the lead to 10, 28-18.
“We’ve been practicing those kinds of plays just to have them in our back pockets, and coming out of the timeout I knew the hook and ladder would be open and made the call,” Bland said. “Our coaches did a great job and saw that the backside was open later in the drive and we just made it happen with the reverse.”
Loyd Star marched down the field in just four plays and scored the two-point conversion, bringing the Bears’ lead to just two once again, 28-26, but they failed to recover the onside kick and the Bears continued their rushing attack to drain out the clock and secure the win.
“Our offensive line had their ups and downs, but they came together and really plowed the way for our running backs tonight, and just did a great job for us,” Bland said. “Going into next week we are going to use this momentum, but just take it one game at a time, can’t focus on the playoffs right now, just have to take care of business this week.”
Story by Lucas Calvert