by Michael D. Gunnell
Southwest Sports Information
The game went down to the wire, but in the end, the Bears were unable to completely overcome a sluggish first half as they fell to the host East Central Warriors, 28-21, Thursday night in Decatur. The game was the MACJC South Division opener for both teams.
With the loss, the Bears to 1-2 on the season (0-1 in the South) while East Central moved to 2-1 (1-0).
The teams exchanged punts through most of the first quarter before the Bears drew first blood to take a 7-0 lead. Zarious Keyes did the honors with a five-yard touchdown run to complete a seven-play, 71-yard march with 3:43 on the clock. Brazos Webb kicked the extra point.
The Warriors quickly answered with a score of their own. On the first play of the ensuing possession, James Smith III took a handoff on the Warriors' 38-yard line and outraced all defenders to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown with 3:37 left in the quarter. The extra point attempt failed, leaving the Bears with a 7-6 lead after the first 15:00 of play.
Smith and quarterback Mario Asagunla both found the end zone for short touchdown runs in the second quarter. Sam Cox kicked an extra point while John Travis McClelland scored a two-point conversion to leave the Warriors with a 21-7 lead at the end of the first half.
The Bears controlled the ball virtually the entire third quarter, running 24 offensive plays to the Warriors' six. Unfortunately, they were unable to cross the goal line. Fortunately, neither were the Warriors as the score remained 21-7 in favor of the hosts with one quarter remaining.
Completing a drive started in the third quarter, the Bears made the score 21-13 early in the final stanza. Quarterback Da' Bryan Magee scooted two yards to pay dirt to cap an eight-play, 77-yard march with 14:58 left in the game. The try for the extra point was unsuccessful.
The Warriors seemed to put the game on ice with 12:02 left to play when Jamaravis Echols took an Asagunla pass for a 13-yard touchdown. Cox booted the extra point to make the score 28-13.
The Bears made the game interesting when, with 1:17 left in the game, Ladarrius Williams took a pass from Magee into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Magee then fired a pass to Damarcus Mitchell for a two-point conversion to make the score 28-21.
One last chance came the Bears' way when they recovered a fumble of the ensuing kickoff to gain possession of the ball on the Warriors' 24-yard line. However, four plays resulted in only three yards for the Bears and a desperation pass with only seconds left on the clock fell short as the hosts held on for the win.
"I thought in the second half we really competed on the road as a football team and competed as an entire team for the first time," said Bears' head man Tim Stowers. "I thought we grew up in the second half and we had a chance to win."
"We made (a lot) of mental errors in the first half," Stowers continued. "Of course, that's coaching, that's my fault. But, I thought we minimized our mental errors in the second half. We got more consistent on offense, we did good things. I thought we grew up a little bit in the fourth quarter as a football team, so that was positive."
The Bears totaled 285 yards of offense in the game. Magee and Keyes led the Bears' running game with 43 and 42 yards, respectively. Both scored a touchdown.
Magee completed 11 of 31 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown. He was intercepted once. Anthony Jones had six catches for 96 yards. Williams had a scoring reception.
The Bears registered 14 first downs in the game and were penalized six times for 55 yards. Jack Runnels punted twice for 33.5 yards while Mitchell averaged 24.5 yards on four punts.
Smith led the Warriors' offense with 202 rushing yards, and two touchdowns, on 27 carries. Asagunla and Brady Anderson combined to complete 7 of 22 passes for 58 yards. Asagunla had a touchdown pass.
The Warriors picked up 10 first downs in the game and were penalized 11 times for 115 yards.
The Bears return home for their next contest, hosting the Hinds Eagles, on September 20. Kickoff at John I. Hurst Stadium is set for 7:00.