KIRKSVILLE - With just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter Mexico trailed Kirksville 14-10 and had the ball in the red zone with a first and goal from the four. Tyler Bracht took the snap from the pistol and lowered his shoulder as he reached the two-yard line. The ball popped out and tumbled into the end zone. For the second time in the game, Kirksville recovered a fumble in their end zone.
Mexico would get the ball back with seconds to go, but was unable to score again and the Tigers won their homecoming game, 14-10.
"It wasn't our best game, but it was our best effort. We have been preaching total effort. We made a lot of mental mistakes, turnover mistakes, but we stuck together and kept our composure," said Kirksville head coach Jeff Jacques.
Turnovers were the story of this game. Aside form the above-mentioned Mexico fumble that resulted in a touchback, they did they same thing in the first quarter when driving for a score. In the final three minutes of the game the teams combined for three turnovers.
Kirksville got it started when Tyler Osborn was stripped of the ball with 2:55 left in the game. Mexico took over near mid-field. One play after connecting for a 40-yard completion, Bracht fumble into the end zone. The third turnover came when Blake Riley intercepted Bracht with 37 seconds to go.
The two teams combined for 10 turnovers. Not surprisingly, the game-winning score was set up by a turnover, and in this case a turnover off a turnover.
With less than eight minutes to go in the third, Riley and Makenna Cook were unable to connect on a handoff and Mexico recovered again near mid-field. Going for the throat, the Bulldogs went with the deep pass that was intercepted by Kyle Gross. Just a handful of plays later Osborn took the handoff and split the Bulldog defense and rushed untouched 53 yards for the winning score.
"It was amazing, it was a great team win. We just got more physical and things started opening up for us," said Osborn.
Osborn rushed 13 times for 95 yards and two scores.
The Tigers defense played a bend-but-don't-break style for the majority of the night, and considering the situations they were put in multiple times, did a good job of keeping Mexico off the scoreboard. Besides the two interceptions and fumble near midfield, the KHS defense came up with a hold after a 12-yard punt that set Mexico up near their own 40-yard line. The lone Bulldogs touchdown followed Kirksville muffing the second half kickoff, where Mexico took possession inside the Kirksville 40.
The Tigers allowed 233 yards rushing and 138 yards passing, but forced three interceptions and the two key fumbles, and most importantly kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for much of the night.
"We knew it was going to be a defensive battle. The defense played really well when we needed them too," said Jacques.
Kirksville opened the scoring when Osborn scored his first touchdown from 10 yards out. The score came with 9:45 left in the second quarter, and after Cook had taken over at quarterback. In the first quarter the two teams combined for three punts, Mexico fumbled, and Osborn threw an interception.
Cook led the Tigers on a 58-yard drive that only took four plays. Cook ran for the first 18. He found Gross for 12 more, then hit Gross again for 18 yards, before Osborn scored.
On the ground Cook rushed seven times for 32 yards, in the air he went 6-of-11 for 49 yards and an interception. Osborn went 2-of-5 for three yards and interception. Riley rushed the ball 15 times for 64 yards. As a team Kirksville rushed for 191 yards on 35 carries and threw for 52, yards going 8-for-16.
Mexico had the big gainers of the game. Jamel Taylor was a beast all night for the Bulldogs as he rushed 17 times for 161 yards, but had a costly fumble in the first quarter. Bracht went 8-for-21 for 138 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Skylar Harrington caught three passes for 101 yards and a score.
Kirksville is now 3-4 and 2-3 in the NCMC. They will look to make it three wins in a row when they face Class 2 Trenton next week in their final home game of the season.