MIDDLEBOURNE - Missed opportunities.
That, in a nutshell, is the best way to describe Tyler Consolidated's 19-6 loss to Ritchie County on a rainy Homecoming Friday night at Tyler Consolidated High School.
The Silver Knights (2-6) turned the ball over twice, both of which resulted in scores. Add in the fact they failed to capitalize on a pair of fourth-quarter red-zone opportunities, and Friday's loss was tough to swallow for coach Rob Caldwell.
Tyler Consolidate’s Koty Martin picks up yardage through a host of Ritchie County defenders.
''I thought we played well in spurts,'' he said. ''But we had some opportunities we just didn't take advantage of.''
Ritchie County's defense had a lot to do with that. It kept Tyler Consolidated's vaunted passing attack at bay and held when it had to.
''I knew this would be a dogfight,'' said Ritchie County Coach Mike Dawson, the former Magnolia standout and OVAC Hall of Famer.
''I knew, from looking at them on film, they were very, very talented. It's just once things start sliding downhill for you, it's hard.''
The Silver Knights started out well. They drove into Ritchie County territory on their first drive only to have it halted when Austin Weekley picked off a Hunter LeMasters pass at the Ritchie 46.
Six plays later quarterback Trevor Shepler hit an open Jayden Allender in the left side of the end zone from 23 yards out. The point after failed leaving the score 6-0.
''I thought we played really well, but we had some mental mistakes like the one that cost us that first touchdown,'' Caldwell said.
The drive was typical Rebels (6-2), who pretty much alternated carries between Devon Jones and Jessie Hilvers for what seemed like most of the night.
Jones finished with 60 yards, with Hilvers amassing 71.
''They are unselfish kids,'' Dawson said. ''We did a pretty good job up front. Those guys did a great job of getting those extra 2 or 3 yards, which is really what we talked about doing this week.''
Later in the first quarter, the Rebels punted from the Tyler 36. The ball looked like it was going to roll into the end zone, but at the last second, it jumped out at the 1.
The field position proved key for Ritchie County after the Silver Knights went four-and-out.
The Rebels, winners of six straight, took over at the Tyler Consolidated 31. Following a 15-yard jaunt by Jones, Tyler Reed scampered 6 yards for a touchdown that put the score at 12-0.
The Silver Knights finally got on track midway through the second quarter.
Jacob Highley, in his first game back since Week 1, scored on a 5-yard run capping a 10-play, 72-yard march. The drive was highlighted by a 20-yard flea-flicker play involving LeMasters, Koty Martin and Alex Doak.
It was one of few big plays for Doak, who exploded for nearly 240 yards receiving in last week's last-second victory at South Harrison.
''We couldn't break him lose,'' Caldwell said. ''For some reason they were really keying in on him.''
The weather didn't help, either. After halftime the rain came down harder helping keep the Silver Knights' passing game in check.
''When things got a little wet it took us out of our element,'' Caldwell said. ''But that's a good team we played.''
The Rebels scored their final touchdown with 3:14 left in the third quarter when Hilvers picked off LeMasters and returned the ball 21 yards for the score.
The Silver Knights came right back, driving inside the Rebels 10. But the drive stalled when LeMasters' fourth-down pass to Koty Martin sailed out of the back of the end zone.
Tyler Consolidated recovered a fumble on the ensuing drive at Ritchie County's 22. But again the Rebels held, forcing another incomplete fourth-down pass with less than three minutes left.
''It wasn't pretty,'' Dawson said. ''But our team gained some confidence.''