By Travis Smola
Vicksburg came up just a blocked extra point short in a wild 14-13 regular-season finale loss on the road against rival Three Rivers.
Senior wide receiver Blake Rankin hauled in two fourth quarter passes including a 20-yarder from fellow senior Brenden Lovell with just 37 seconds left in the game to pull the score to 14-13. The subsequent extra point was blocked, but the Bulldogs got another attempt on a Three Rivers penalty.
But the Wildcats blocked the second extra point attempt as well. Head Coach Tom Marchese felt like there was a missed call on the Three Rivers defenders leaping over the lineman on the second play. “It’s unfortunate they didn’t catch it,” He said while also admitting; “we’ve got to block better.”
It was a heartbreaking way to finish off the regular season as fireworks exploded over the field and Three Rivers fans and players celebrated re-capturing the swine bone trophy for the first time in two years.
Before Vicksburg made its late rally, things were going totally Three Rivers’ way. “Field position was not in our favor the first half,” Marchese said.
The Wildcats led 7-0 at halftime after they capitalized on a bobbled punt attempt in the second quarter. Three Rivers took the opening drive of the second down the field before they scored again on a 7 yard pass play. The extra point made it 14-0 early in the 3rd quarter.
It wasn’t until about three minutes into the fourth quarter when Lovell finally hit Rankin wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard score to give the large Vicksburg fan turnout some hope.
The Bulldogs racked up 16 penalties in the game. Penalties accounted for 75 yards in the first half alone against Vicksburg.
It seemed even when things went well, it hurt the Bulldogs. Near the end of the second quarter senior receiver Deondre Lovell ran a fake punt on a fourth and 3. He picked up the first down and lot of extra yardage into Wildcat territory.
But a personal foul after the play was over meant Vicksburg kept possession, but they ended up giving back almost all of Deondre’s extra yards back on a 15 yard penalty. “It seemed like every time we had a play it was second and 10 or second and 15,” Marchese said.
The loss means that Vicksburg shares a portion of second place in the conference with Three Rivers. Hopes of a home playoff game won’t happen this year as the team will travel to Chelsea next Friday in a “Bulldogs vs Bulldogs” opening playoff showdown.
Chelsea is 9-0 this year, but their record isn’t as spotless as it appears on paper. They actually lost their opening game of the season against River Rogue. But Chelsea was awarded a forfeit victory later after it was found River Rogue had accidently used an ineligible player.
While Marchese said he was not expecting a home game after the Three Rivers loss, he was still looking for ways to use the game for fuel for the team going forward.
“Sometimes adversity makes us tougher,” Marchese said. “The good news is it wasn’t for win number six.”