THAYER 14, FAIR GROVE 31
The long and winding road continues to twist and turn its way through the heart of the Thayer Bobcats' 2006 football schedule.
After opening the new season with a pair of impressive home victories, the Cats hit the road for a month away from the friendly confines of their home turf.
Finding the first three contests away from home any thing but friendly, the Bobcats dropped three tough games in a row.
Looking to snap that losing skid and put the caps on their four-game road trip, the Bobcats rolled into Fair Grove Oct. 6 to take on the Eagles on homecoming night.
As it turns out, the Class 2 Eagles had a happy homecoming while the Cats fell to 0-4 away from Louis Bozman Stadium this year, with Fair Grove winning 31-14.
The final score might be a bit deceptive, as the two squads were engaged in a fierce battle for three-and-a-half quarters before Fair Grove (5-1) pulled away with a pair of late touchdowns.
Fair Grove took a 13-8 lead to the halftime break, and after a scoreless third quarter, that score held heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
While they certainly had success moving the football on Fair Grove in the second half, the Bobcats (2-4) had not been able to punch the ball in after intermission.
That changed midway into the fourth quarter.
After the Eagles had pinned Thayer deep at its own 5-yard line with a booming punt, the Bobcats set out to march downfield.
The drive started out slowly, as Thayer managed just six yards on the first three plays of the series, leaving the Bobcats facing a fourth-and-3 from their own 12-yard line.
Needing points with the clock not on their side, the Bobcats rolled the bones and went for it in an obvious punting situation.
This gamble paid off big-time as quarterback Jacob Eckman kept the football and plunged ahead for a first down.
Then Thayer cashed in.
Eckman rolled out and hit Josh Huckabee with an 83-yard touchdown pass at the 7:53 point of the fourth to give Thayer its first lead of the night. Huckabee, a freshman, drew his first starting assignment of the year in the Fair Grove game, replacing starting back Tyler Bonds who was sidelined with a concussion. The 2-point try was stopped short, but Thayer had managed to grab a 14-13 advantage.
Then, the sweet turned to sour in a hurry for Bobcat fans.
The Eagles went 78 yards in nine plays on their next series to move ahead for good. This drive was highlighted by a huge 42-yard pass from Fair Grove quarterback Cameron Bruffett to freshman running back Caleb Schiffitzel on third-and-13 from the Eagles' 41-yard line.
Schiffitzel then finished the deal off by hauling in an 11-yard TD pass from Bruffett with 3:32 left to play. The 2-point attempt was stopped, but Fair Grove had managed to wrest the lead from the Cats at 19-14.
That was only the beginning of the sour taste for Thayer.
The Cats drove the ball to the Eagle 27 on Thayer's next possession, but the Fair Grove defense came up big as it harassed Eckman into throwing an interception on second-and-2.
Brian Hundley grabbed the pick and ran it all the way to the Thayer 17-yard line, good for a 60-yard return, with 1:40 left in the game.
One snap later, Schiffitzel stood in the end zone after a 17-yard TD scamper, adding to Fair Grove's lead. The 2-point attempt was nullified, but with 1:33 left in the contest, the Eagles were on top 25-14.
To dump even more hardship on the Bobcats' cause, the Eagles then squibbed a low lining kick on the kickoff, taking possession of the football.
Bruffett ended the scoring with a 27-yard TD run, giving Fair Grove two scores in a shade over 10 seconds to break open what had been a hard fought game. The PAT was no good, but Fair Grove posted a 31-14 victory over Thayer.
While it's no secret the Bobcats have a stable of talented running backs, including Michael Lowther, Jacob Sims, Bonds and Huckabee, the Eagles, too, know something about running the football, as Schiffitzel had proven during the first five games of the season. The freshman had racked up over 700 yards on the ground heading into the clash with Thayer, including 265 yards on 35 carries against Stockton the week before.
However, it was the Cats who looked like they would strike first on this evening.
On their first series of the night from scrimmage, the Bobcats used a steady dose of Lowther and Huckabee running behind Big John Barnett and Kris Frillman to move the football downfield.
Eckman hit Sims with a 13-yard pass late in the drive that took the ball to the Eagle 11-yard line.
Then disaster struck.
On first-and-10 from the 11, the Bobcats coughed up the football at the goal line, with Fair Grove recovering it in the end zone for a touchback.
Not only did this snuff out Thayer's scoring chance, it gave Fair Grove a shot at points. A shot the Eagles made good on.
Running out of a power-set, Schiffitzel looked like he was wrapped up near midfield. However, he pitched the ball to Alec Hackett and Hackett ran the reverse 48 yards for the first touchdown of the night. The PAT was no good, but Fair Grove led 6-0 after one.
The Eagles added to this margin at the 8:30 mark of the second thanks to a 24-yard TD pass from Bruffett to Logan High. The extra point pushed Fair Grove on top 13-0.
The Cats didn't let time expire in the first half without a score.
Huckabee caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Eckman to get the Bobcats going forward. Sims reeled in the 2-point pass from Eckman to send the teams to intermission with Fair Grove up 13-8.
After neither side could advance the scoreboard in the third, Fair Grove peeled off three touchdowns in the fourth to prevail 31-14.
The Bobcats get their first taste of home cooking in a month's time when they host the Willow Springs Bears for Homecoming Oct. 13.