In a game that lasted until almost 11 p.m. on Friday, the Pierce City Eagles fell just short of a win, losing their football season opener to Jasper 19-20. It was the first time the Jasper Eagles had bested Pierce City in football since Pierce City joined the Spring River Valley Conference and began playing Jasper regularly.
Jasper led the entire game, making the come-from-behind stand exciting for the home crowd in Pierce City. Statistics showed both teams had almost the identical number of plays, though the home team had 297 yards to 165 for Jasper. Jasper was able to score in less time and effort while Pierce City's offense struggled to mount a cohesive attack.
Despite Pierce City recovering two Jasper fumbles, the first quarter was scoreless. Pierce City got to Jasper's 21-yard line on its first drive before running out of steam. A Pierce City punt down to the four-yard line kept Jasper stuck deep at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, a surprise pass from punt formation on fourth down by Jasper sent senior runningback Jeff Piepenbrink loose for a 66-yard touchdown run around Pierce City's right side. With a good kick, Jasper was up 7-0 with almost nine minutes left in the half.
Pierce City's responding drive ended when quarterback Wayne Sooter's pass was intercepted by Piepenbrink. On the next play, runningback Austin Spencer took a pitch and ran nine yards for the score. Spencer also kicked the6 extra point to give Jasper a 14-0 lead halfway through the quarter.
In the next play, Pierce City's runningback Cody Cox broke free around Jasper's left side to scramble 70 yards to score. Sooter's kick brought Pierce City to within a touchdown at 7-14.
With five-and-a-half minutes left in the half, a transformer blew, killing power to the football field. After a delay of about 10 minutes, officials resumed play using their own stop watch to judge progress. Despite Sooter gaining 25 yards in two plays, neither Pierce City nor Jasper could mount a scoring threat in the growing darkness as halftime stopped play.
At 9:45 p.m. with power restored in just under two hours, the third quarter began. Pierce City's Cedric O'Hara intercepted a Matt Newman pass to stall Jasper's initial drive after six plays. Neither team could move the ball far, and Pierce City lost possession on its second drive with a fumble.
The fumble recovery put Jasper on Pierce City's 10 yard line. Spencer barreled through the line a play later to score. A blocked extra point ended Jasper's scoring with a little over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Pierce City responded with a six-play drive to score in under two minutes. Tight end Jared Barchak gained 35 yards on a Sooter pass, and runningback Garrett Garman broke free for 21 yards on the next play to score. The kick failed, leaving Pierce City trailing 13-20.
As the fourth quarter began, Jasper's six-play drive stalled but a 42-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Pierce City six-yard line. Pierce City gave the ball back on downs, and Jasper drove down to Pierce City's 11-yard line in eight plays. Out of downs, Jasper tried a field goal but a bad snap turned the play into a pass attempt, broken up by Pierce City's Joe Landreth.
With a little over four minutes left in the game, Pierce City marched downfield. Sooter fired up his offense with his own running, gaining 43 yards in three runs and firing off three completed passes to Garman. On the last pass, Garman scampered 21 yards to score.
With a minute-and-a-half left and the score 19-20, Pierce City attempted a two-point conversion to take the lead. The run fell short as Jasper's defenders held.
Jasper mustered four more plays, three run by Spencer, before time ran out.
Cox was Pierce City's leading rusher with 108 yards on 10 plays, followed by 66 yards by Sooter on 14 plays. Barchak was the leading pass receiver with 40 yards on two receptions.
Piepenbrook led Jasper's offense with 90 yards, on four pass receptions. Spencer had 52 yards on 23 carries, including one pass reception.
Pierce City plays in Greenfield next Friday.
In other bi-county games on Friday, Miller won its Spring River Valley Conference game over Liberal 52-31, scoring four touchdowns in the first quarter.
Marionville had a non-conference win over McAuley 41-8. McAuley scored all its points in the first quarter.