One punt ended up being the difference when the Booneville Bearcats opened their year with a 41-35 loss at Clarksville on Aug. 30.
The Bearcats scored on every possession except one on which the clock ran out in the first half, and they punted once. Clarksville scored on every possession except the final one of the night, and they didn’t punt at all.
Already six players short-handed the Bearcats lost arguably their best lineman in Ethan Pirraglia after six plays and 1:51 with the Panthers at the Bearcat 3-yard line.
Clarksville scored the next play on a run by Bryce Buckner.
The Bearcats answered with a 14-play drive that took seven minutes and included a pair of fourth down conversions before Randon Ray scored from the Panther 1-yard line to tie it at 7-7 — Gavin Kent converted all five of his PAT trys.
On his way to a four touchdown night, Ray and fullback Cam Brasher handled the bulk of the work, logging 22 carries apiece. Ray ran for 116 yards and Brasher 107. The Bearcats gained 321 total yards.
Brasher also led the defense with 10 total tackles, followed by Ty Goff and Cort Mizell with seven each, with Goff having six solo stops and Mizell five.
Nicholas Buckner scored from the 2 on the first play of the second quarter for a 14-7 Clarksville lead and the Bearcats were forced to punt on their next possession.
Bryce Buckner’s second touchdown capped a 69-yard drive with 5:24 left in the first half increased the Bearcat deficit to 21-7 lead after Sergio Fernandez’s extra point.
The Bearcats answered with a 1-yard Brasher touchdown run with 1:27 to go in the half, but that turned out be too much time as the Panthers got a 21-yard run from Colby Burkett to go back up by 14, 28-14 with still 24 seconds to go in the half.
Goff returned the kickoff to midfield and the Bearcats got to the Panther 31 but ran out of time before the intermission.
Booneville started the second half with another scoring drive that took 3:51 and ended with Ray’s 6-yard run to make it 28-21.
Bryce Buckner’s third score at the 4:45 mark of the third quarter made it 34-21 after Fernandez failed on the point after.
Bryce Buckner ran for 114 yards on 21 carries and Nicholas Buckner added 110 on 11 carries for the Panthers.
The lead was cut to six, 34-28 on a 5-yard run by Ray with 48 seconds to go in the quarter.
Clarksville was facing a second-and-14 at their 7 to start the final quarter but got a 36-yard pass play from Miles Castleman to Burkett and went on to complete an 89-yard rive — the Panthers gained 412 yards — going up 41-28 on Bryce Buckner’s 2-yard run with 7:27 to go.
The Bearcats went into hurry up mode for their next possession but took 13 plays to score. Ray’s 1-yard run made it 41-35 with 2:34 left.
As had been the story throughout the night the Bearcats could not get the Panther offense off the field and would not get the football back.
The key play on the final drive came with 1:28 to go when Bryce Buckner got 7 yards on a third-and-5. Clarksville was a perfect 5-of-5 on third down.