THAYER 34, CABOOL 21
It wasn't going to happen again.
No way, no how. Not this year.
One year ago, the Thayer Bobcats were looking to snap a two-game losing streak when they traveled to The Pit to take on the Cabool Bulldogs in week five.
By all rights, the Cats probably should have won that game, but Thayer missed all three of its extra-point trys, falling to Cabool 23-20 in heartbreakingly-close fashion, part of a four-game road losing streak for the Bobcats.
This year Thayer didn't let things get so close, as the Bobcats slammed Cabool 34-21 in a battle of unbeaten teams at Louis Bozman Stadium Sept. 28.
Thayer even gave Cabool a helping-heaping of its own medicine, as the Bobcats lined up on offense in the same kind of double-wing set that the Bulldogs prefer.
After jumping out to good-sized leads in knocking off its first five foes on the year, Thayer (5-0) showed it can play from behind if needed, as the Bobcats trailed for the first time this season in the game against Cabool (4-1).
As a matter of fact, it was a wonder that Thayer even got a chance to touch the pigskin in the first quarter, as Cabool and its double-wing offense chewed up over seven minutes of clock on the Bulldogs' first possession from scrimmage.
The Bulldogs went 75 yards in 17 plays, converting three fourth downs along the way, to post the first points of the game.
Ryan Smith, Cabool's big-play threat, cashed in from five yards out at the 4:46 mark of the first for the first TD of the night. Danny Skaggs kicked the point-after, and Cabool took a 7-0 lead.
The Bobcats got a nifty return from Michael Lowther, who took a handoff from Matt Kojdecki, on the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball to the Bulldog 42-yard line.
Thayer couldn't get many positive yards from scrimmage on that series, and Cabool took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.
That's when the Bobcats' big-play machine cranked up.
Quarterback Jacob Eckman, who had another outstanding effort in leading the Bobcats, hit Lowther (96 yards receiving) with a 21-yard strike to get Thayer into Cabool territory early in the second.
Not done, the Eckman-to-Lowther duo then struck gold on a 41-yard TD pass a couple of plays later, for Thayer's first points of the showdown. Ethan Leisenring booted the extra-point to knot the game at 7-all with 9:26 left in the second quarter.
Cabool's next possession ended with a punt after Scott Hargus drilled Bulldog fullback Joe McCarty for a 2-yard loss on third-and-inches, the Cats' first big defensive play of the night.
Then the Bulldogs caught a major break on special teams' play.
Cabool punted the football deep, but it touched a Bobcat and the Bulldogs fell on it at the Thayer 10-yard line.
After the Cats had pushed Cabool back a few yards, Bulldog quarterback Patrick Jesse hit Smith on third-and-goal from the 14 for a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. Skaggs' PAT gave Cabool a 14-7 advantage with 6:30 left until the half.
That six-and-a-half-minute span was plenty enough time for Eckman and the air-raid Bobcats to strike.
And Josh Huckabee was more than willing to aid in the cause.
First Eckman (10-of-16, 168 yards passing) hit Huckabee for a slick 29-yard gain that got the Bobcats on Cabool's side of the gridiron.
Then Eckman turned right around one snap later and sealed the deal by tossing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Huckabee to keep Thayer close to Cabool. The 2-point try was no good, leaving the Bulldogs on top 14-13 with 5:29 left until intermission.
On the Bobcats' last series of the first half, they managed to drive the ball all the way to the Cabool 19-yard line inside the 30-second mark.
This scoring-threat ended when Lucas Dodson picked off an Eckman pass with 22 ticks left in the first half, sending the teams to the break with Thayer trailing by one point, 14-13.
And that was close as the game would be, as Thayer simply hammered the Bulldogs on both sides of the football in the second half, reeling off three unanswered touchdowns to pull away. For the night, the Bobcat defense managed to keep the high-powered Bulldogs pretty well in check, as Cabool logged just 255 yards of offense for the game.
And this sticky defense stood tall early in the third quarter.
The Cats jarred the ball loose from Smith at the Bulldog 32-yard line, setting the Thayer offense up with a short field.
Eckman hit tight end Luke Martin for a 15-yard gain that took the ball to the Bulldog 5, then the QB did the rest with his legs.
Diving over the top of his massive offensive line from a yard out on fourth-and-goal, Eckman (58 yards rushing) gave Thayer its first lead of the game. He also carried the 2-point conversion in to make the score Thayer 21, Cabool 14, with 5:56 left in the third.
The Bobcat defense had its way with Cabool in the last minutes of the frame, and the quarter ended as Hargus, Kris Frillman, Eli Martin and Ryan Tate all had a team meeting on top of Jesse, sacking him for an 11-yard loss at midfield.
With a seven-point lead tucked into their back pocket after three, the Cats put the kibosh on Cabool in the fourth.
The Bulldogs mishandled a Thayer punt early in the fourth, and as the ball hit the turf, Nick Allen fell on it for the Bobcats at the Cabool 28-yard line.
Lowther (64 yards rushing) powered the ball in on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line to add to his side's lead. Leisenring knocked down the point-after and Thayer led 28-14 with 7:13 left to play.
Needing points in a hurry to catch up, Cabool converted two fourth downs on its own side of the field on the Bulldogs' next series.
However, faced with another fourth down at the Bulldog 44, Cabool couldn't make it three straight conversions, as the Thayer defense refused to budge, taking over the ball on downs.
A couple of snaps later, Lowther had his third touchdown of the night, this one on a slick 30-yard scamper across the field. The PAT was no good, but Thayer had pretty much slammed the door on the visiting Bulldogs, leading 34-14 with 2:52 left to play.
Cabool did get one final score, a 20-yard TD run from Smith with 47 ticks remaining. Skaggs' PAT gave Cabool 21 points on the night, just not near enough to match the Bobcats' 34-point outburst.