By Andrew Glover
PERKINS, Okla. —
The Perkins-Tryon Demons were missing several key players as three linebackers, two halfbacks and their starting quarterback were injured. The younger Demons made the most of their opportunity but ended up three points short in a 32-29 loss to the Bethany Bronchos Friday at McIlvain Field.
“The biggest adjustment we made was attitude,” P-T coach Lloyd Wertman said. “We started playing inspired and played P-T Demon football. There was no big X’s and O’s secret. We did what we wanted to do and what we tried to do in the first half.”
P-T (2-3, 0-2), which was without quarterback Shelby Reese and running backs Jacob Peyton and Clark Crotty, only gained 89 yards and recorded five first downs in the first half but thanks to its defense only trailed 10-0 at halftime. In the second half, Perkins gained 295 yards and recorded 15 first downs while scoring 29 points.
In the opening drive of the second half, the Demons held the ball for nearly half of the third quarter as they ran 15 plays on a 71-yard drive. Running back Tyler Taff and quarterback Zac Bledsoe picked up two first downs each. Taff rushed for 36 yards on the drive and finished it with a 1-yard run.
On Bethany’s first play of the second half, quarterback Kyle Duke completed a 19-yard pass to Dalton Stout, but Stout fumbled and the Demons recovered at their own 41. Perkins-Tryon took advantage as it went 59 yards in seven plays with Bledsoe capping the drive on a 15-yard run, giving the Demons a 13-10 lead.
The Bronchos (4-1, 2-0 in district) got back on track with an eight-play, 55-yard drive. Tino Vann set Bethany up with good field position on a 35-yard kickoff return to the Bronchos’ 45. On second-and-one from the Perkins’ 46, Duke ran for 21 yards. Running back Dorion Jackson ran for 14 yards to the Perkins’ 6. Duke finished the drive with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal. The extra point kick failed but Bethany regained the lead at 16-14 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was a battle to the last minute. The Demons responded as Bledsoe ran for his second touchdown — this one from 68 yards. Matt Waitt’s extra point put P-T ahead 21-16. Once again the Bronchos responded as Duke ran for three first downs. Bethany’s quarterback had a 44-yard touchdown run that was called back on a holding penalty. That was a small setback as Duke gave the Bronchos the lead with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Gibson Miller. The two-point conversion failed but Bethany led 22-21 with 8:43 left in the game.
The defenses stepped up after that as each team forced a punt. Bethany’s defense would come up with points as Waitt fumbled after a 1-yard rush. Nicholas Long recovered and returned the fumble for a 41-yard touchdown. Kicker Mathew McGarry converted the extra point, increasing Bethany’s lead to 29-21 with 2:26 left.
Bledsoe, who was dealing with hamstring issues most of the second half, tried to rally the Demons. After a 3-yard gain on first down, Bledsoe completed a 41-yard pass to Waitt that moved Perkins to the Bethany 36. After gaining another first down, John Sasser ran a delayed route and Bledsoe hit him, and Sasser did the rest for a 25-yard touchdown. On the two-point attempt, Bledsoe ran across the field and hit the pylon and took out the linesman to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Wertman said Bledsoe has experience at the quarterback position.
“Zac Bledsoe is a heck of a quarterback,” Wertman said. “He showed it. He’s played in a lot of games this year at quarterback. We don’t drop off with him one bit.”
On the ensuing possession, P-T tried a high onside kick but Bethany fair caught the ball at its own 46. The Demons’ defense looked like it had overtime locked up as John Yarborough sacked Duke for an 11-yard loss to the P-T 40. The very next play, Duke threw up a prayer as he was being hit and Stout got his hands on it for a 33-yard gain to the Demons’ 7. McGarry locked up the game from there, nailing a 24-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game.
The first half was a defensive struggle. Bethany drove the ball on its first drive but the drive ended at the Demons’ 14 on turnover on downs. The next three possessions ended in punts with P-T punting twice. The Bronchos got on the board near the end of the first quarter with a 25-yard field goal by Mathew McGarry. Running back Tino Vann helped move the ball for Bethany as he ran for 16 yards to P-T’s 29. Later in the drive, quarterback Kyle Duke completed a 14-yard pass to Brady Van Zant that set up Bethany with first-and-goal at the P-T 6. That’s where the drive stalled as Bethany lost three yards.
The Demons had to punt three times in the first half, missed field goal and had two other drives end in a fumble and interception. Bethany wasn’t much better as it punted twice, turned the ball over on downs and were intercepted. The only other score was when Duke hit Michael Michael Ross for a 74-yard touchdown.
Wertman said as tough as the loss is, his team needs to get over it and get ready for next week.
“Prague always has a good football team,” Wertman said. “We better be ready. Our young players put it all out on the table tonight and I was really proud of them.”