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St. Joe rides big plays to playoff win over BC

The physically larger Madison-St. Joseph Bruins (6-6) used big plays that ate up huge chunks of yards on Friday night to knock the Bogue Chitto Bobcats (6-6) out of the 2A playoffs with a 57-38 win.

The first thing you noticed on Troy Smith Field at the beginning of the game was the size of Bruin quarterback Daniel Clarke. Clarke is listed as 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He was taller than every player on the Bogue Chitto defense and played behind a large offensive line.

The Bruins needed less than two minutes to take a 7-0 lead when they scored on the opening drive of the game. Clarke hit Kiland Harrison on a long gain for the first play of the game and then finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. The point after kick was good and St. Joe had a lead they would never surrender.

The Bobcats responded with a much more deliberate drive. Twice they converted third downs before Shaw King hit Owen Anderson on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Anderson showed great athleticism on the catch by getting a foot down in the back of the end zone while falling out of bounds. The two-point try was no good and St. Joe led 7-6.

The Bobcats got their best defensive effort of the night on the next drive as they forced the only St. Joe punt of the half. However, the Bobcats couldn’t make the Bruins pay as they failed to convert a fourth down play on the drive and turned it back over to St. Joe in Bogue Chitto territory.

The Bruins would take over and immediately hit a big play as Clarke found fullback Joe Pearson on an 83-yard screen to put the Bruins up 14-6. Clarke did a great job of selling an outside throw before dumping the ball to a wide-open Pearson in the middle of the line.

Bogue Chitto pulled within 14-12 early in the second quarter on a 26-yard touchdown run by Anderson. It would take less than three minutes for the Bruins to respond when Harrison scored on a 20-yard touchdown run to put St. Joe up 21-12 with 5:58 until halftime.

Anderson returned the following kickoff 63-yards and it looked like Bogue Chitto would continue to go score-for-score with their opponents before another big play by the Bruins took away any Bobcat momentum.

Harrison — playing defensive back this time — picked off a Shaw King pass and returned it 85 yards for a score. Bogue Chitto came back with a gusty drive that took four minutes and culminated with a 6-yard pass from King to Anderson. Zach Upkins caught the two-point try for the Bobcats and BC had cut the lead to 28-20 with just seven seconds left in the first half.

Bogue Chitto took the ball to start the second half but went backwards and then gave St. Joe solid field position for their first drive. The Bruins easily drove down the field to score a rushing touchdown and put themselves up 34-20.

The Bobcat offense had success early running counters to DaMarcus Godbolt and then Anderson. When the Bruin defense adjusted and made BC start to run between the tackles, the Bobcats were not able to get the interior push they needed.

Bobcat coach Gareth Sartin inserted sophomore J.T. McCaffrey at quarterback in the third period and McCaffrey running the ball between the tackles began to free up room on the perimeter again. Anderson scored another rushing touchdown — this one from 10 yards — to cut the St. Joe lead to 35-26 with 3:07 remaining in the third quarter.

On the next drive Bogue Chitto got their first stop of the second half when freshman linebacker Colten Bales broke up a St. Joe screen on fourth down, but the Bogue Chitto offense would be forced to punt on the next drive as St. Joe led 35-26 after three quarters.

Clarke found Stephen Wolf on a TD throw early in the fourth to put St. Joe back ahead 43-26. Anderson would answer with a 14-yard touchdown run to pull BC within 43-32, but St. Joe quickly scored on a 50-yard touchdown run to put their lead at 17 points.

Anderson would score one more rushing touchdown — this one from the 5-yard line — late in the fourth quarter.

As the team gathered around Sartin after the final horn, he praised the fight his team showed late in the game. The passion of the moment was worn on the faces of the players, especially the seniors who were playing in their final game.

Senior defensive end Warrick Cook was overcome with emotion after the game. Partly because his football career is over, but there was also pride there. Cook was part of a senior class that won one game combined in their freshmen and sophomore years. As juniors and seniors, the same class was a huge reason why the Bobcats made back-to-back playoff appearances.

“I know we played as hard as we could tonight,” said Cook.

That was the same message that was echoed by their coach.

“They couldn’t have played any harder tonight,” said Sartin. “We faced some adversity in this game, but they kept on fighting and making plays to keep us close. Extremely proud to be their coach tonight.”

Senior running back and linebacker Godbolt barely came off the field in his final game as a Bobcat. He echoed his teammate Cook and his coach in his thoughts about the tough playoff loss.

“We had some guys step up tonight and play their hearts out,” said Godbolt.

The cupboard won’t be bare for Bogue Chitto next season as King will be a senior at quarterback and Anderson — one of the most explosive skill players in the county already — is just a junior.

“We’re losing a lot of good players no doubt, but we’ve had some freshmen and sophomore step up this year and there is a lot to look forward to in the future,” said Sartin.

Story by Cliff Furr