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Tigers go down swinging to Cascade
Nov 04, 2012 12:00 am
Champions advance to face Friendship
By ANDY REED
WATERTOWN — Watertown's first home playoff game in 27 seasons was good to the last snap.
But a series of turnovers and missed opportunities were too costly for the Purple Tigers to overcome in a 24-21 loss to Cascade Friday night at Robinson Stadium.
An early fumble left Cascade with a short field to score a touchdown and Matthew Combs had a 45-yard interception return for a 21-14 halftime lead for the visitors from Wartrace.
Another pickoff short-circuited a potential tying drive and eventually led to an insurance field goal which not even some last-minute heroics could overcome.
"We preached it all week," a hoarse Watertown coach Gavin Webster said after his Tigers ended a 7-4 season. "That's what it's about. It's about turnovers, about protecting the ball. We knew we couldn't turn the ball over.
"We had two missed opportunities down in the red zone to capitalize that we didn't do early that could have changed the format of the game."
Watertown kept the ball on the ground out of the chute, taking the opening possession to a quick 18-yard touchdown run by freshman fullback Luke Turner with just 51 seconds gone in the game. Turner paced the Purple Tigers with 110 yards on 14 carries.
But Cascade's Creed Rose was a one-man wrecking ball in the first half as he carried the ball on all six snaps to a 2-yard tying touchdown.
A turnover on the next series, recovered by Cody Smith, tipped the scales just enough as Cascade was left with only 35 yards to cover to a go-ahead score, Rose's 12-yard sweep.
Watertown drove to the Cascade 5-yard line before stalling. But the Tigers finally forced a punt and Turner pulled the Purple Tigers even at 14-14 on a 35-yard run midway through the second quarter.
Cascade was stopped on downs at the Watertown 40. But Combs picked off Ty Jobe's pass and returned it to the house for a 21-14 Champions lead 2:26 before halftime.
Watertown had time to drive from the Tiger 47 to the Cascade 11 before stalling.
Rose racked up 133 yards on 19 first-half carries, but spent most of the second half sitting on the ground against the railing as his knee appeared to be wrapped up. He did return late in the game for four more carries, finishing with 144 yards.
Cascade went to a mixture of runs by Smith and Dakota Vaught. Though individually they weren't as damaging as Rose, they did combine to run for 125 yards, with Smith getting all but one of his 83 after halftime. Quarterback Matthew Sulcer also completed all three of his passes in the second half for 39 yards, all to Combs, to keep the chains moving. Combs, also ran the ball 11 yards on a fake punt to keep the ball.
But the Champions never cracked the end zone in the second half. The closest the visitors got came after Jobe was picked off at the Cascade 19.
The Champs drove to the 7 from where Trent Sutton kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:26 left to play for a 24-14 lead.
Jobe, who completed 8 of 21 passes for 116 yards, drove Watertown 58 yards in just two plays, plus a 14-yard personal foul as Brannon Hill was hit out of bounds at the end of a 31-yard catch. Jobe found Cooper Jacobsen in the end zone to pull the Purple Tigers within 24-21 with 1:09 left.
Cascade recovered Cameron Jennings' onside kick. Sulcer tried to take a knee, but somehow the snap squirted forward into a scrum of Tigers who recovered at the Champion 41.
"Ball squirted out," Webster said. "I don't know, from the center-to-quarterback exchange, not real sure on that. Ball popped out. We told them to get out there and get us a turnover and we got a shot at winning this game."
But Jobe's next four passes either fell incomplete or were batted away, and Sulcer was able to get the snap and take a knee to seal the Champions' reservations back to Wilson County next Friday for a 7 p.m. second-round kickoff at Friendship Christian with a 7-4 record.
"Our guys, I was proud of them," Webster said. "They fought. A great bunch of guys, great bunch of seniors. They gave great leadership. Very coachable young men. I told them they have nothing to be ashamed of."
Watertown ended up outgaining Cascade 339 yards to 295. Hill caught four passes for 62 yards and ran nine times for 69 more. Jobe ran nine times for 44 yards.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org