After opening the season 3-0 on the road, the Eminence Warriors opened at home.
But the Warriors’ road form didn’t help at home as they fell to Cincinnati Oyler 30-21.
Eminence led until the final minute of the game.
On 4th-and-10 with 53 seconds to go from their own 28-yard line, Oyler used their final timeout to set up one more play. After the break, Oyler struck on a 72-yard pass play to take the lead.
With Bradley Foree at quarterback, the Warriors had 36.2 seconds to try and hit a long pass to take the game back. On 4th-and-15 with 17.6 seconds remaining, Foree made one more desperate heave that Oyler intercepted and returned more than 60-yards for a touchdown and the final score of the game.
Those two plays reflected the key to the game — that it turned on long pass plays.
The first came late in the first quarter. After Foree scored on a four yard touchdown run that capped a 6 play, 54-yard drive, Oyler came back on the next possession and on 3rd-and-10 hit a short pass that was carried for 75 yards by the Oyler receiver, who was brought down at the five-yard line. Two plays later, Olyer tied the score 6-6.
Eminence then drove the ball into the red zone on the strength of a 14-yard fake punt and run by Foree and a 26-yard quarterback keeper by Justin Mitchell. But Mitchell’s pass into the end zone was intercepted and returned to the 7-yard line. But a penalty and the Eminence defense backed the Hatmakers up to end the quarter on their on 3-yard line.
Then, to open the second quarter, Eminence sacked Oyler’s quarterback for a safety, making it 8-6.
The teams traded possessions until Eminence finally scored again on a 4th-and-10, 28-yard touchdown reception by Foree, which was set up by a Shelby Armstrong punt return to the 28-yard line. The 2-point conversion pass was incomplete and the Warriors led 14-6.
Eminence threatened again just before halftime. After taking over on the Oyler 44 yard line the Warriors drove down the field using good clock management and appeared to score on a 6-yard Mitchell-to-Foree pass play, but the play was called back for offensive pass interference and the Warriors were intercepted on the next play with 20 seconds remaining in the half.
The third quarter opened with a scoring threat for Oyler who took over on downs after a high snap on fourth down was recovered by Eminence on their own 11-yard line. Oyler could not take advantage of the opportunity and gave the ball up on downs.
On the Warriors’ next possession they found themselves facing a 4th and 16 from their own 3-yard line.
Foree dropped back to punt and was forced to move away from the oncoming rush just as he released the ball to kick it. The ball was a low line drive that ricocheted off the Eminence linemen and landed in the end zone where Oyler recovered it for a touchdown. The Hatmakers failed on the 2-point conversion and Eminence held on to a slim 2-point lead at 14-12 with 8:29 remaining in the quarter.
Eminence quickly bounced back from the play, driving downfield from their own 40-yard line. Daishon Moore had several 8-10-yard runs in the series before Foree broke free for 27 yards to put the Warriors on the 5-yard line. Two inside runs from Moore got the ball in the end zone for the Warriors. The 2-point conversion failed and the Warriors led 20-12.
Shelby Armstrong ended Oyler’s next possession with an interception. The Warriors appeared to take control again. After a 28-yard run by Mitchell took the ball well inside Oyler territory, the drive stalled and Eminence gave up possession on downs with only a couple of minutes to go in the quarter.
The Hatmakers completed a short pass to open the fourth quarter and the receiver broke free to sail into the end zone for the 67-yard touchdown run. With 11:47 to play the Warriors lead had been narrowed to 20-18.
The Warriors made it to the 8-yard line on their next possession, but on 3rd-and-1 lost 11 yards to make it 4th-and-12 from the 19. Mitchell’s next pass was intercepted on the 3 yard line and the threat was snuffed out.
On Oyler’s next possession, Moore intercepted an Oyler pass and returned it for what appeared to be a game-clinching touchdown. But the play was called back because of an illegal block and the Warriors were not able to punch it into the end zone.
That set up the final big play of the game for Oyler that resulted in the game-winning 75-yard touchdown with just 41 seconds to go.
The loss was the first of the season for the Warriors and it came on the heels of bad news for senior receiver/safety Brandon Mitchell who found out Wednesday that his football career was over, after suffering his third career concussion in the game at Riverview.
“We did not find out for sure about Brandon’s status until Wednesday and I don’t think some of the kids were able to have time to handle it,” Coach Steve Frommeyer said. “Some of these kids don’t believe they can do it yet without a key player like Brandon. We had more total offense than in the first three games with Brandon playing. They have to understand that we can adjust and do it without him.
“We missed his leadership and playmaking abilities. He could have taken advantage of their small corners. We missed him on both sides of the ball.”
Daishon Moore impressed his coach in his first game back after surgery. “I was really pleased with Daishon playing both sides of the ball,” he said. “He had 88 yards rushing. For the first game, he had a pretty good game.”
Frommeyer also complimented Hayden Hoofman and Cory Roberts, who led the team in tackles.
Frommeyer tried to find the positive in defeat. “Out of 168 plays in the game we had 4 or 5 bad plays,” he said. “If we take any one of those out, we would have won the game.”