EPC falls to Bearden in state quarterfinals
EPC (12-1) had the ball twice inside the Bearden 20-yard line and twice inside the 10-yard line but couldn't come away with points as the Bears ended the Warriors season with a 14-0 win in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A state football playoffs in Lepanto this past Friday.
EPC looked to have caught a break early as Austin Smith came up with football on the opening kickoff but the Bearden runner was ruled down giving the Bears a first and ten from their own 32-yard line. Tristan McDaniel came up with a big sack on third down what forced Bearden to punt. EPC started their first possession on their own nine-yard line with 9:38 left. The Warriors converted one first down as Aaron Scales hit Corbin Truelove for a nine yard gain. EPC was forced to punt a few plays later from their own 37-yard line with 6:02 left. Paul Pilgrim burst through the line and sacked the Bearden quarterback on the three-yard line. The Bears couldn't get the offense going and punted the ball back to EPC with 4:59 left. EPC took over at the Bearden 35-yard line after a short punt. The Warriors moved down to 19-yard line and were facing fourth and four. The Warriors went for the first down but the Bears defense sacked Aaron Scales and took over on downs with a little over two minutes left in the period. The first quarter ended with the score 0-0.
Bearden faced fourth and two at the EPC 34-yard line with 11:30 left. Bearden converted the fourth down play before driving down and getting a nine yard run from DeVontae Ross with 9:02 left. The shovel pass on the two-point conversion play was stopped short leaving the score 6-0 Bearden. The teams traded punts before EPC got another short punt from the Bears and took over on the Bearden 44-yard line. EPC was again facing a fourth down with just over five minutes left before half. The Warrior went for a first down and were stopped giving the ball back to Bearden. Bearden moved the ball to the EPC 35-yard line and were facing fourth and seven. The Bears elected to go for the first down only to see T.J. Young get his hand on the ball and knock the pass down giving the ball to EPC with 43 seconds left until half. The Warriors got a big pass from Aaron Scales to Quinn Young moving the ball down to the Bears seven-yard line with 20 seconds left. The Bears defense came up big as Cameron Love intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it out the nine-yard line with one second left. Bearden took a 6-0 lead to halftime.
The Warriors got the ball first in the second half and used a punishing ground attack to move to the Bearden 35-yard line before the offense stalled and the Bears stopped the Warriors on fourth and nine to take possession of the ball. EPC's defense returned the favor as Bearden was stopped on a fourth and one play giving the ball back to EPC on their own 23-yard line with 3:32 left. The Warriors converted a fourth down to keep the drive alive heading into the final quarter.
EPC started the fourth quarter with second and three on the Bearden 39-yard line. Facing a fourth and six the Warriors went for a first down only to see Love come up big again as he batted the ball down as the Bears took over 1-10 on their own 38-yard line. The Bears capitalized on the turnover on downs as they drove down and got a touchdown pass from Jamond Young to Quentin Wilson with 5:45 left in the game. Jameko Lowe added the two-point conversion run to make it 14-0. Kyler Gordon took the short Bearden kickoff and returned it to the Warriors 35-yard line. Aaron Scales hit his brother Byron with a pass moving the ball to the Bearden 37-yard line with 4:18 to play. Facing a fourth and nine, Justin Horstkamp came up with an interception for Bearden with 4:11 left. The Bears were forced to punt with 2:57 left giving the Warriors the ball on their own 43-yard line with 2:57 left. The Warriors final drive ended with a turnover on downs with 25 seconds in the game.
"Bearden is a great football team," EPC coach Brian Weathers said after the game. "Our defense played outstanding. On offense it's my job to call the plays that work and I didn't do that tonight. It's 100% my fault," Weathers added. "They (Bearden) have a ton of speed and that caused problems for us on offense. They covered our receivers well and got off the line well," Weathers said.
"The seniors will leave a big mark here at EPC. With only one conference loss and four total loses in their three year careers. They have set the foundation for the younger guys and I hope they follow in their footsteps so we can back here in this same spot next year," Weathers said.
Trevor McDaniel led the Warriors offense with 82 yards rushing on the night. Tristan McDaniel finished the night with 16 tackles on defense, 10 of those solo, and a sack. Byron Scales tallied 14 tackles with a sack and four tackles for a loss. Pilgrim had 10 tackles and a sack.