NEW MATAMORAS- A second half comeback bid by the Frontier Cougars came up a little bit short Friday night as the Cougars were defeated 21-12 by the Buckeye Trail Warriors in Pioneer Valley Conference action at Frontier High School.
Frontier spotted the Warriors two first half touchdowns before rallying in the second half.
"They (Buckeye Trail) made a couple of big plays early on," said Cougar head coach Todd Bradford. "They made some plays early on and we didn't. Thats kind of the name of the game and sometimes you've got to make those plays."
KATIE PARKS Special to The Times
Buckeye Trail’s Morgan Dougherty (3) hurdles Frontier’s Eddie Salazar (12) during PVC football action at Frontier High Friday night.
Both teams got off to sloppy starts as the Warriors fumbled the opening kick off and Frontier's Donavan Boley came up with the recovery at the Trail 32 yard line.
The Cougars returned the favor on their very first play from scrimmage when Jordan Jefferson's pass was intercepted by C.J. Beaver to give the ball right back to the Warriors.
Neither team could muster much offense early on and after both teams traded turnovers once again it would be Buckeye Trail who put together the game's first scoring drive.
BUCKEYE TRAIL 21 FRONTIER 12
Buckeye Trail 7 7 7 0 - 21
Frontier 0 0 12 0 - 12
BT: Seth Doudna 10 yd. run (Ian Wildes kick) :50
BT: Brett Shipman 5 yd. pass from Morgan Dougherty (Wildes kick) 4:40
F: Eddie Salazar 37 yd. run (2 pt. attempt failed) 9:45
F: Taylor Merckle 62 yd. run (2 pt. failed) 7:57
BT: Doudna 2 yd. run (Wildes kick) 4:35
Buckeye Trail: First Downs: 12. Rushes-Yards: 43-103. Passing Yards: 168. Total Yards: 271. Penalties-Yards: 2-10. Punts-Avg.: 4-37.0. Fumbles-Lost: 3-2. Turnovers: 3.
Frontier: First Downs: 8. Rushes-Yards: 36-218. Passing Yards: 62. Total Yards: 280. Penalties-Yards: 5-40. Punts-Avg.: 6-36.0. Fumbles-Lost: 2-1. Turnovers: 3.
Buckeye Trail: Rushing: Doudna: 19-84, 2TD, Lane Starr: 8-11, Tyler Nealey: 5-10, Dougherty: 11-(-2). Passing: Dougherty: 8-13-168-1TD-1INT. Receiving: C.J. Beaver: 2-83, Shipman: 4-59, TD, Jeffrey Simmons: 2-26.
Frontier: Rushing: Merckle: 9-107, TD, Salazar: 5-52, TD, Jordan Jefferson: 13-40, Jared Howell: 9-19. Passing: Jefferson: 8-14-62-2INT. Receiving: Salazar: 4-40, Merckle: 4-22.
Next Game: Frontier (1-2) at Bridgeport.
Sparked by a 42-yard strike from quarterback Morgan Dougherty to Beaver, the Warriors marched 66 yards in just six plays with Seth Doudna reaching the end zone on a 10-yard run.
After the Cougars went three-and-out, Buckeye Trail went right back to work as they put together an impressive 12-play 76-yard drive with Dougherty finding Brett Shipman in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Trail challenged for more in the first half, moving the ball into the red zone before Jefferson came up with a big interception in the end zone to keep the lead at two touchdowns heading to intermission.
The Cougars, who won the opening toss but elected to defer, wasted no time at all getting on the board in the second half.
After Jefferson broke lose for a 20-yard run to move the ball to the Trail 37 yard line, Frontier caught the Warrior defense by surprise as a mis direction hand off to wide receiver Eddie Salazar worked to perfection and the senior sprinted down the sidelines and into the end zone for the first Cougar score of the game.
After the Cougars unsuccessfully went for the two-point play, it would be the Cougars defense that rose to the occasion when Josh Kirkbride sacked Dougherty for a four-yard loss to force a Warrior punt.
This time it would take the revived Cougars just one play to reach pay dirt as Taylor Merckle broke free up the middle and rambled 62-yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to two at 14-12.
"We had to make a couple of adjustments at halftime," said Bradford. "We just said at half, we're not going to take plays off, we're going to play hard, and thats just what they did."
Buckeye Trail, who gained the majority of their first half yards in the air, went to work on the ground in their next possession.
After getting excellent field position at their own 47 yard line, the Warriors methodically marched down the field with Doudna gaining 24 yards on the ground including the final two to make it 21-12 with 4:35 to play in the third.
The Frontier defense stepped up from that point on as it limited Trail to just two first downs the rest of the way, but the Warrior defense would prove to be every bit as stout.
Buckeye Trail sacked Jefferson four times in the game as well as forcing three Frontier turnovers.
Frontier managed to get into Trail territory just once more in the game and time would run out on the Cougars hopes of a second consecutive PVC victory.
Buckeye Trail head coach Dale Broomhall was pleased with his team's ability to fight off the Cougar second half challenge. "We kind of lost our composure there early in the second half," said Broomhall. "We got back on track and kind of got back to Trail football where we run the ball at you and make you stop us."
Doudna paced the Warriors in rushing with 84 yards on 19 carries, while Dougherty completed 8-of-13 passes for 168 yards in the game. Jefferson completed 8-of-14 passes for the Cougars for 62 yards, while Merckle paced the ground game with 107 yards on just nine carries.
Salazar netted 52 yards rushing on five carries as well as 40 yards receiving on four receptions.
Despite the loss Bradford saw a lot of positives in his Cougar squad.
"I'm very proud of our kids. They showed tonight that they are not going to give up," said Bradford. "They played hard and I thought we were in position, but sometimes things just don't fall your way."
Buckeye Trail improved to 2-1 on the season and remained undefeated in the PVC, while the Cougars fell to 1-2 and 1-1 in conference play. Frontier will be back on the road Friday when it travel to Bridgeport.