By Chad Fell
Courtesy of the Northwest Alabamian
BEAR CREEK — The door to the 1A Region 8 state playoffs just opened a little wider for the Phillips Bears, after their 56-26 defeat of regional foe the Waterloo Cougars Friday night, Oct. 14.
The victory puts the Bears 6-2 on the season and 5-2 on the region. The loss puts the Cougars 2-5 on the season.
The first half of the game was tighter on scores with both teams vying for the goal, but the Bears exploded into the second half creating a 30 point margin before the Cougars scored with no time showing in the game.
Turnovers were the name of the game from early on. The Cougars received the game’s opening kickoff, with the Bears picking up the recovery of a loose ball deep at the Cougar 25.
The Bears then fumbled at the line, with the Cougars taking back the ball from their own 29.
The Cougars carried the ball to midfield on a first down. Blake Gallagher was down but not before picking up a first down into Bear territory.
A Cougar false start brought up 3rd and 7, when Chris Godwin connected with Gaige Daniel who darted at right for the first down well into Bear territory at the 27.
From there, a pass sailed deep and complete to Braylan McMullan for the score with 8:24 left in the first quarter. Jaden Dixon couldn’t get through, so the two point conversion failed, leaving the score 6-0, Cougars.
The Bears returned the kickoff to near midfield. Joshua Mann opened up the field for a first down at the foe 20, then took it on across the line with 7:28 left in the first quarter. The two point conversion failed, and the score was tied 6-6.
The Cougars meant business and quickly got back onto the board and into the lead. The Cougars began possession at their own 25.
The Cougars recovered their loose ball at the line for 2nd and 14, when Chris Godwin darted for a big first down gain to the Bear 45.
Then, a 40-yard pass sailed complete to Jaden Dixon in the end zone with 4:44 left in the first quarter. Godwin connected with Daniel for the two point conversion, and the Cougars were now ahead 14-6.
The Bears wouldn’t have that, as Hayden Husley returned the kickoff 75 yards to the uprights with 4:28 left in the first quarter. The two point conversion failed, and the Bears were trailing by two 14-12.
There was no score on the next drive, as the Bears held the Cougars to only four yards on the set, and took over on downs from their own 35.
A loose ball on Mann’s carry was recovered by the Cougars which capitalized on the play with a scoring drive starting from their own 30.
Adam South was quick at right for a first down, as the first quarter expired.
The Cougars well advanced into Bear territory, with Daniel pulling down a complete pass and edging down to first and goal from the Bear 8.
Daniel then pulled one down to score. The carry fell short of the two point conversion.
The Cougars were leading 20-12, but this would be their last score until the final second of the game.
The Bears would open up their next drive for the score, starting from their own 42. Mann broke through to the Cougar 37, and Nevin Elkins’ quarterback keeper at left made it first and goal deep at the Cougar 8.
After a few short carries, the Bears were deep at the Cougar 1 yard line, when Brayden Ricketts crossed the line. The two point conversion failed, and the Bears were trailing by only two, 20-18.
The Bears took over on downs after sacking Godwin for a loss.
The Bears got a first down off a complete pass to Lathen Burton, but after a few incomplete passes, a pass was picked off by Gallagher for the Cougars.
The Bears forced them to punt later on 4th down with 17 seconds remaining until half time.
The Bears were forcing the Cougars to punt on their possession on in the third quarter, but a loose ball on the snap was recovered by the Bears deep at the Cougar 5 yard line.
In fact, Cougar turnovers told the tale as the Bears raked in points during the third quarter.
After Mann fell shy of the line on third and goal, Burton crossed the line. Burton crossed for the two point conversion. The Bears were now leading 26-20.
The Cougars just started their possession when the Bears picked up a loose ball and set up to score from the Cougar 45 yard line.
A deep pass was complete to Hulsey, but the down was replayed after a Phillips holding call and Cougar pass interference call offset.
The Bears had possession from the Cougar 44, when a deep pass was caught by Ricketts for a first and goal deep at the Cougar 2.
Elkins then found the uprights with 7:22 left in the third quarter. Elkins connected with Burton for the two point conversion, and the Bears expanded their lead to 34-20.
The Cougars couldn’t keep possession. With a loose ball in the backfield picked up the Bears, they threatened from the Cougar 15.
Elkins carried it across on the keeper. An incomplete pass meant the two point conversion failed, but the Bears were now ahead 40-20.
After forcing the Cougars to punt, the Bears took control on the return to midfield.
Mann found ground at right to move the ball deeper to the 37, when a 40 yard dash was good for the score with 3:07 left in the third quarter. Hulsey got through for two, and the score was now 48-20.
The Cougars had some opportunities early into the fourth quarter, after the Bears were hit back-to-back with personal foul and unsportsmanlike penalties, the latter of which gave the Cougars an automatic first down near the Bear 14.
After another Bear unsportsmanlike call, the Cougars were first and goal, but aggressive Bear defense kept the plays near the line, soon bringing up fourth and goal and the Bears taking over on downs deep at their own 2 yard line.
Elkins found room on his keeper for the first down, with Mann stretching the gain ever farther. Elkins found ground to the opponent 3 for first and goal.
Mann then finished the plan with 2:09 left in the game. Bo Green broke through for two, and the Bears were leading 56-20.
A late in the game touchdown from the Cougars as the game clock expired, set the final score 56-26, Bears. Since the time had expired, the extra point or two point conversion was not allowed.
See complete story in the Journal Record.