Capitalizing on breaks in the third quarter to regain momentum, the host Lamar Tigers pulled away from the pesky Pierce City Eagles to log a 34-18 victory in a Class 2A sectional football game Monday night.
Lamar, 6-6 on the year, will travel to Fair Grove on Saturday for a state quarterfinal game. Pierce City finished a fine year with a 7-5 record.
Playing a team it had defeated 35-0 in district action, Lamar, of the Big 8 Conference, found the going much harder the second time around against the Spring River Valley Conference team. Indeed, the first quarter was nearly entirely dominated by the visitors.
Both clubs had good scoring opportunities early. Chance Chapman, of the Eagles, recovered a Lamar fumble at the 46-yard line. However, Pierce City could generate little offense and had to punt the ball away.
A 47-yard run by Cory Lear enabled Lamar to reach the 18-yard line, but a good defensive stand by Robert Baldwin, Zach Crouch, Aaron Crouch and Robert Baldwin halted the Tiger advance. A field goal attempt was unsuccessful.
Pierce City then headed for a score. Quarterback Wayne Sooter picked up 23 yards to the 46-yard line. Runningback Alex Clayton then got loose for a 46-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt failed, leaving the Eagles ahead 6-0 with 3:45 to go in the opening stanza.
Second quarter rally
Neither team could do much offensively until Lamar launched a second quarter rally. Lear got the Tigers close to a score with a 20-yard run. A halfback pass from Markell White to Dillon Bass for 15 yards was good for the TD. The extra point kick by Chaz Blackwell put Lamar ahead, 7-6, with 8:38 remaining until halftime.
Defense by the home team got the ball back on a punt, and then the Tigers headed for another score. Andrew Fowler rambled 34 yards on a reverse to get the ball deep into Pierce City territory. Lamar advanced the ball to the four-yard line at which point White bullied into the end zone for the touchdown. Blackwell's extra point upped the Tiger lead to 14-6 with 4:48 to go until intermission.
The two teams exchanged possession with time winding down in the half with Pierce City getting the ball back with only 56 seconds to play.
Behind the passing of Sooter, the Eagles managed to get on the board again. Back-to-back first down passes from Sooter to Mitchell Gibson moved the ball to the 32 yard line with 11 seconds left. Sooter then connected with Cody Cox for the touchdown as time expired in the half. The two-point conversion attempt failed as the half ended with Lamar on top 14-12.
Lamar got big breaks to open the second half and take charge of the game. The kickoff to Pierce City was mishandled and the Tigers recovered the ball just six yards from pay-dirt. Eight seconds into the third quarter Lamar had the score. It came on a six-yard run by White. The extra point kick by Blackwell upped the lead to 21-12.
The Eagles tried to come back behind the running of Curtis Palmer and a pass interference penalty against Lamar to reach the 35-yard line. The Tigers stopped the scoring drive on a pass interception.
Next came the second big break for the Tigers. A pass attempt by quarterback Trenton Doyle was tipped but the ball was snagged in stride by White for a 67-yard gain to the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Doyle got the TD on a four-yard run. Blackwell's extra point with 5:15 left in the quarter put the home team ahead 28-12.
Led by the offensive line play of William Gilliam, Colton Dunn, Aaron Crouch and Kyle Crouch, the Eagles began fighting back despite a game-ending injury to Sooter.
With freshman quarterback Cedric O'Hara at the helm, Pierce City headed to a score as the fourth period started.
Clayton gained 28 yards and escaped for a 33-yard gain to move the ball to the nine-yard line for Pierce City. O'Hara then passed to Palmer for the touchdown. The two-point conversion try failed to leave the score 28-18 in Lamar's favor with 9:56 left in the contest.
Lamar quickly responded, however, driving the ball 80 yards to ice the game. The TD came on a three-yard run by Doyle. When the extra point try failed, the final score was 34-18 with 5:17 to go in the game.
Neither team could muster much offense as the game wound down. The contest ended with Lamar in possession of the ball.
Touchdowns: Pierce City--Clayton, Cox, Palmer. Lamar--Bass, Doyle 2, White 2. Extra Point Kicks: Lamar--Blackwell 4.