Bulldogs drop to 2-4 overall
In a game full of turnovers by both football teams, Mexico came up short, losing 14-10 to NCMC and district opponent Kirksville on the road Friday night, dropping the Bulldogs to 2-5 overall.
Mexico and Kirksville (3-4) both had two fumbles and three interceptions on the night but both of Mexico's fumbles proved especially costly, coming in the end zone and resulting in a turnover instead of a touchdown.
"The fumbles cost us two scores," said Mexico head coach Ty Harrison. "We score both times if we don't fumble."
On Mexico's second possession of the game, they moved down the field with two runs from Tyler Bracht and a personal foul on Kirksville before Jamel Taylor broke free on a 23-yard run to give the Bulldogs first-and-goal at the 10-yard line. After a loss of three by Taylor brought up second-and-goal, the senior running back made it to the end zone but was hit hard and low forcing a fumble and Kirksville recovered it, resulting in a touchback.
Despite an interception by Skylar Harrington right at the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs went three-and-out and were forced to punt. On Kirksville's first possession of the second quarter they only took four plays to get on the board when Tyler Osborn scored the first of his two touchdowns of the night at the 9:46 mark and the Tigers also ran in the 2-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead.
On the first play of the next series Tyler Bracht hooked up with Harrington on a long pass play and six plays later the Bulldogs had moved the ball to the 5-yard line but were facing a 3rd-and-goal when Harrison decided to go for a field goal. Cole Jaramillo connected on a 22-yard field goal to close the gap to 8-3.
"It is huge to be able to kick a field goal and put points on the board," Harrison said. "We work on that in practice and I was glad to see us execute it in a game. I feel we have gotten better in that aspect of our game and when you execute it the confidence grows."
Kirksville mishandled the opening kickoff of the second half and the Bulldogs recovered, setting themselves up with good field position. The team took advantage of the turnover, picking up a first down before Bracht and Harrington connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass and Jaramillo added the point after to put Mexico up 10-8 with 8:22 to go in the third quarter.
Both teams had trouble holding on to the ball in the second half, including one sequence early in the third quarter where Kirksville fumbled and Mexico recovered only to throw an interception on the very next play. So many turnovers in a back and forth contest make it hard to get anything going according to Harrison.
"It kills momentum. When you turn it right back over to them anything you gain is lost and then some," he said.
Midway through the third quarter Osborn broke free for 52 yards and his second touchdown run but the 2-point conversion pass attempt failed and Kirksville took the 14-10 lead.
Mexico outgained Kirksville on the ground (202-163 yards) and in the air (78-52 yards) but couldn't shut them down completely.
"I thought the defense played pretty good yardage wise but the two big plays that resulted in their scores were the difference," Harrison said. "Osborn is a very good player and we knew that coming in. I thought we did a pretty good job on him overall. However, we knew stopping his big play ability would be the key and we didn't get the job done."
Mexico had another good chance to take the lead when they forced a Kirksville fumble at the 43-yard line with 2:55 to go in the game. After a short gain on the first play from scrimmage, Taylor broke a tackle and took off on a 38-yard run before being forced out of bounds at the 4-yard line. The Bulldogs got into the end zone once more but Kirksville forced a fumble on the play and recovered the ball with 2:07 left in the game.
Taylor returned this week after sitting out the Warrenton game last week with a strained MCL and led the Bulldogs in rushing with 138 yards on 21 carries, despite not being 100%.
"Jamel played well. His play was affected especially in the open field when he broke away," Harrison said. "He didn't have that extra gear he has had all year."
The Bulldogs will look to regroup next week when they face rival Fulton in the Homecoming game. "We have to decide that we will persevere and work on getting better. There is no other option," Harrison said. "Our kicking game is a positive and so is our overall defensive play. Focus will be key for us during Homecoming week."
STATS LEADERS: RUSHING: Taylor: 21-138, Bracht 16-34, D'Milo Nunnelly 7-30. PASSING: Bracht 6-21, 3 INT, 1 TD, 78 yards. RECEIVING: Harrington 3-70, 1 TD, Chance Harper 1-7, Jaramillo 1-6, Nunnelly 1-5. TACKLES: Karsten Ekern 18, 2 fumble recoveries, Harper 10, 1 fumble recovery, Laine Chedwick 9, Payton Turner 8, Bracht 8, 1 INT.