Given the difficulties of the week leading up to Friday night’s home football game against Lincolnton, Bunker Hill was glad to get things rolling for the start of play in the Catawba Valley 2A Conference. The game itself had its strange and ugly moments, but the Bears survived with a late touchdown and held on for a 7-6 win.
Amidst the preparation during the week, the Bears (4-0 overall, 1-0 Catawba Valley 2A) had two confirmed cases of staph infection on the team, according to an email sent by Catawba County Schools. Following the disinfection of the shoulder pads, at least five players had skin irritation caused by the disinfectant with at least one player suffering a second-degree chemical burn. The junior varsity game scheduled for Thursday at Lincolnton was canceled.
So, when the Bears pulled out the win, a jubilant postgame meeting with his team left head coach Albert Reid with tears streaming down his cheeks.
“I’m just pleased for these kids and this coaching staff, man,” said the emotional Reid. “With the week that we had, to pull through and fighting for each other, I couldn’t be more proud of the group. These guys are just resilient, and they fought back. We fought through a lot of things and came out and just left it all out here tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”
Given the circumstances of the week, it seemed appropriate that the game, too, would have its struggles. Adding in that both teams returned from a bye week, sloppy play was the result – even from the referee, who lost the coin in the grass following the flip to determine the game’s first possession. That would be the least of the officials’ problems by halftime.
The teams struggled as much with themselves as with the opposition. The defenses combined for six turnovers and held the opposing offenses to 331 total yards, unofficially. But busted handoffs, unforced fumbles and penalties, including 10 pre-snap penalties, were just the start of a frustrating night that kept the game in a sputtered flow.
“It was very sloppy at times,” said Lincolnton head coach David Byrd about his squad. “We try to prepare and maybe put in a little too much stuff and a couple of times we had people out of positions and sometimes they did the same, too.”
Yet, the offenses had their moments. The teams combined for only three punts – one of those into the backs of linemen blocking at the line of scrimmage — and put together long drives at times.
“They’re a good team and they play great defense,” Reid said of Lincolnton. “We knew that we were going to be in a dogfight. We knew we had to come out and match what they’re going to give us.”
Although the Bears ended the game with 162 yards, they looked unstoppable on the first drive, which took 11 plays and 6:19 off the game clock. Quarterback Redek Robinson, behind his offensive line, picked about the Wolves (1-3, 0-1) with four keepers on the ground for 20 yards and added four completions. A pass interference on third down kept the drive alive to the Wolves’ 20-yard line. But a tip drill on a short pass turned into a Lincolnton interception at its 12.
Bunker Hill ran only five more plays in the half, as the Wolves put together a pair of long drives that came up empty.
An eight-play drive ended with a fumble near midfield. After Robinson threw his second interception, which set up the Wolves again on their 33, Lincolnton’s slow and methodical drive that took 18 plays and 8:19 of game time moved the ball to the Bears’ 2. Bunker Hill broke up a touchdown pass in the end zone and eventually held tight on a fourth down, when Ian Smith stuffed Khamoni Heath for a loss to turn the ball over on downs.
Although there was 3:24 left in the half, the Bears spun their wheels with a holding call on a first down run, then were called for a delay of game, after which the officials charged Bunker Hill with a timeout to the dismay of the coaching staff. However, that was the prelude for a key moment in the game.
With the ball at the 9, Robinson scrambled into his own end zone on a pass play. As the Wolves defenders closed in and made the grasp for a sack, Robinson threw a desperation pass that landed well short of the line of scrimmage. The officials threw a flag for an intentional grounding penalty, which sent several of the Wolves players and coaches into making a signal for a safety. However, the two points were not awarded and the penalty, which by rule is to be marked from the spot of the foul, was stepped off from the line of scrimmage instead, much to the heated disagreement of the Wolves coaching staff. Bunker Hill collected just 3 yards on the short drive with the half ending on a false start and more heated words by the Wolves at the officials as they left the field.
“It was grounding,” said Byrd, when asked about the conversation with the officials. “But, it’s just a question of where the quarterback was when he threw it and whether was he in the end zone or was he out of it. I don’t have a good view on that, but some of our coaches thought he was in the end zone, I can’t say for sure; we’ll just have to go with what the referee called.”
For his part, Reid said, “Whatever they call, they call. I’ll take it.”
After a Lincolnton three-and-out to start the second half, Xavier McCleave took the punt return deep into Wolves territory, only to see the play nullified by a block in the back.
Bunker Hill followed with a quick three-and-out but the botched punt into the linemen set up the Wolves at the Bears’ 34. Lincolnton converted a fourth down on a pass play to the Bears’ 21, only to see the play called back for a personal foul.
The Wolves turned the ball over on downs, but the Bears quickly punted and Lincolnton finally gained some momentum. An end around by Eian Stancil brought the ball to the Bears’ 35 to start the fourth quarter. But on the first play after the field switch, a lateral from Andre Bost to Andrew Phelps was mishandled with the Bears taking possession at midfield.
Bunker Hill rediscovered the groove of the opening drive with Robinson running for 16 yards and throwing for 23 more. Robinson’s toss to Cole Lineberger set the ball up at the 12, and from there Robinson bulled through the line on a pair of 6-yard runs for the touchdown. Alan Bahena Soto’s kick made it 7-0 with 8:36 left.
Phelps returned the ensuing kickoff the Bears’ 45 and a facemask penalty added 15 more yards to the play. Bunker Hill forced a quick fourth down, but Bost was able to get a pass off as he was hit, which hit Phelps in stride as he slalomed through the Bunker Hill defenders for the 33-yard score. However, Peyton Rangel’s extra point sailed wide to keep the score at 7-6 with 6:17 left.
With a chance to seal the game, Bunker Hill kept the ball on the ground all the way to the Wolves’ 18, which forced Lincolnton to burn its final timeouts with 2:28 left. After another false start, Lincolnton got new life when Phelps registered his third interception of Robinson at the 10.
But the new life for Lincolnton ended on the third play, as Bost dropped the ball while setting up to pass with Lineberger recovering the fumble and sewing up the game.
Given the struggles of the week and the on the field, Reid saw the win as a beautiful thing.
“There ain’t no such thing as an ugly win, man,” said Reid in summing up his thoughts about the game. “We’ll take it however we can get it.”
Bunker Hill travels to West Caldwell next Friday, while Lincolnton hosts Newton-Conover.
BH – Redek Robinson 6-yard run (Alan Bahena Soto kick), 8:26
L – Andrew Phelps 33-yard pass from Andre Bost (kick failed), 6:17
First Downs: Lincolnton 9, Bunker Hill 12
Rushes-yards: Lincolnton 28-78, Bunker Hill 29-120
Comp-Att-Int: Lincolnton 9-18-0, Bunker Hill 8-16-3
Passing yards: Lincolnton 91, Bunker Hill 42
Fumbles-Lost: Lincolnton 4-3, Bunker Hill 1-0
Penalties-yards: Lincolnton 7-58, Bunker Hill 12-76
RUSHING — Lincolnton: Khamoni Heath 14-38, Andre Bost 9-5, Eian Stancil 4-40, Andrew Phelps 1-(-5). Bunker Hill: Redek Robinson 15-58 and 1 TD, Talayn Weaver 5-43, Jaylan Willis 3-13, Cole Lineberger 2-12, Elijah Boston 1-0, Team 3-(-6).
PASSING — Lincolnton: Bost 9-18-0 for 91 yards and 1 TD. Bunker Hill: Robinson 8-16-3 for 42 yards.
RECEIVING — Lincolnton: Phelps 5-85 and 1 TD, Stancil 2-10, Nehemiah Lynch 1-0, Anthony Odum 1-(-4). Bunker Hill: Boston 5-8, Xavier McCleave 2-27, Lineberger 1-7.News Source: Hickory Cord