The up and down season that was 2016 came to an end Friday night at Bearcat Stadium with a 21-13 opening round loss to Southside Batesville.
It was a game full of missed opportunities for the Bearcats.
Two plays into the night Chance Pence caused a fumble that Noah Reyes recovered, but the Bearcats (6-5) could not take advantage of the gift.
Grant Rodatz converted a third down with a 9 yard pickup to the Southside 36 but a fourth-and-4 became a fourth-and-9 after a false start and Brandon Ulmer threw an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs with 7:22 to play in the opening quarter.
After forcing a Southerner (8-3) punt the Bearcats went 74 yards in 10 plays. The big play on the drive was a 28-yard keeper that included an extra five yards for a facemask infraction.
Still it took converting a fourth-and-2 by inches on a carry by Caleb Draper to get the Bearcats to the 3. Carson Ray for a touchdown the next play and with the Austin Dobbs point after kick it was 7-0 with 1:32 left in the quarter.
The Bearcats reciprocated with a big penalty, this one for 15 yards on a kickoff fair catch, and Southside started at the Bearcat 37. The defense responded with a fourth down stop of Josh Millikin by Pence and Draper on the first play of the second quarter.
The Bearcats put together three first downs to move from their 28 to the Southside 28 with a first down but three plays later they had only reached the 24 and out of a time out Ulmer threw into the end zone for Wooldridge but Caden Husky out-jumped the junior in the end zone to end the threat with 5:50 left in the half.
Southside was forced to punt again and the Bearcats were at their 36. Rodatz ripped off 16 to get the ball into Southerner territory but a fourth-and-2 at the 39 saw Draper, who had 77 first half yards, was stopped for no gain.
With Josh Millikin hitting Koby Rich, the Southerners got a first down on the next play to cross midfield. Three plays later Mason Anderson was dropped for a 3-yard loss on a screen play but a 15-yard facemask penalty moved the Southerners to the Bearcats 38 with a first down with 1:46 left in the half.
This time the Southerners took advantage of the help with one big play. Anderson, who had 10 carries for 5 yards, lost 2 on first down and Millikin hit Brian Allen for 4 on second down before throwing for the end zone with Hayden Fennell batting the ball away to bring up fourth down.
Then Anderson appeared to be well covered but hauled in a tipped pass in the back of the end zone and with 30 seconds left in the half the game was tied at 7-7.
The Bearcats got the ball to start the second half but three plays netted 9 yards and a punt.
Consecutive plays cost the Southerners 10 yards and an incomplete pass forced the Southerners to punt as well at the 8:18 mark of the third quarter.
That give the Bearcats the ball at their 41 but an intentional grounding penalty pushed it back to the 26 and wasted a down and Ulmer fumbled but got it back on the next play and suddenly it was third-and-27.
The Bearcats got another break when Wooldridge recovered an Anderson fumble but again failed to take advantage when an Ulmer pitchout went awry and Andrew Carey recovered at the Bearcat 43 with 6:22 left in the third quarter.
A tackle for loss and two false start penalties later it was third-and-15 at the Bearcat 48 when Millikin connected with Brayden Duncan for a second improbably touchdown pass that made it 14-7 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
It got worse before it got better for the Bearcats. Forced to punt on their next possession, Noah Gregory got only 11 yards on his boot and Southside was at their own 49 with 2:56 left in the quarter.
On a fourth down at the Bearcat 45 Millikin bobbled the snap and Wooldridge made a stop at the Bearcat 46 to end that threat.
The final quarter began with the Bearcats at the Southside 48 and Draper, who finished with 104 yards on 24 carries managing only 3 of the 4 he needed. The next play saw Draper get the remaining yard to move the chains.
On a third-and-7 in the next series, Ulmer hit Draper on a screen that Draper took 41 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-13. Ulmer was 5-of-15 on the night for 57 yards.
The Bearcats then went for 2 but Wooldridge was unable to bring in a pass from Ulmer and the Bearcats had not been set on the play.
The defense got a 4-yard tackle for loss form Devin Davis and forced two incomplete passes, but the Bearcats roughed the punter on fourth down and Southside moved out to its 44 with a first down.
Two plays later Ulmer picked off Millikin — he was just 9-of-19 in the game for 103 yards – and returned the ball to the Southside 46 with 8:32 to go.
A three-and-out gave Southside the ball back and the Southerners kept the ball to the 4:18 mark before Brian Allen punted to the Bearcat 18.
The Bearcats kept the ball the next 20 seconds, covering three incomplete passes and a punt.
Southside needed go only 41 yards after the punt and did so with a big 26-yard run from Millikin and Husky scoring from the 11 on a reverse with 2:53 to go to make it 21-13.
Ulmer returned the kickoff to the Bearcat 49 and after Draper got 8 and Ulmer hit Wooldridge for 3 and a first down the ball was at the Southerner 40.
A personal foul hit on the next play moved the ball to the 26 with 2:31 left but Ulmer was sacked by Kinser Tosh on the next play and he was only able to hit Ethan Dobbs for 3 on second down and Jacob Gregory for 9 on fourth down giving the Southerners the ball on their 22 with 1:37 to go.
Three kneel downs ended the Bearcat season.