A Nathan Maxwell pick of a Quinton Maag pass on the third play of the game set up an early score for the Trumann Junior Wildcats, but the junior Reb defense wouldn't let the Cats into the end zone again and the offense rebounded for two touchdowns to give Highland a 14-8 conference victory over Trumann at Rebel Memorial Field on Sept. 24.
"That kills you on field position," said Junior Rebel Head Coach Spencer Hill. "On a muddy field, field position is so important. We threw an interception our first drive and then we were just fighting uphill the rest of the game."
Trumann used a nine-play, 47-yard drive and a Josh Evans 4-yard run to light up the scoreboard first with less than two minutes left in the first quarter. Dustin Hannah added the 2-point conversion.
A flag-filled second drive, one by Highland and two by Trumann, along with Sterling Stowers' 38-yard rush into Wildcat territory propelled the Rebs to their first score.
Stowers weaved his way in from the 14-yard line and then added the conversion to tie the score at 8-all with just under seven minutes left in the half.
The Reb defense preserved the first half tie by denying the Wildcats the end zone even when they got to the Highland 4.
Trumann started from its own 44-yard line and put together a 12-play drive. A false start penalty on second down from the Reb 4 pushed them back to the 9. The Rebs held them to a 2-yard gain on second, took back the two yards on third, and the Maxwell pass to Cameron Wright went incomplete to give the ball back to Highland.
"Red zone defense is what wins tight games and our red zone defense was outstanding tonight," said Hill.
The Wildcats' first drive of the second half picked up two first downs, but ended with a punt.
Defensive Lineman Carr Hill got a hand on the Maxwell punt, which Nick Sokolowski caught at the 50 and returned to the Trumann 13-yard line.
Stowers picked up nine yards on downs one through three and Maag got the first down and then the 1-yard touchdown. Stowers fumbled at the goal line on the 2-point conversion to keep the score at 14-8 Highland.
A defensive block-in-the-back penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty negated a Wildcat fumble and moved the ball 25 yards to the Rebel 26-yard line, giving Trumann a chance to work the ball down to the 5, but a fumble recovery by Sokolowski stopped another deep Wildcats' drive.
"The defense stepped up when we needed them to," said Hill. "We haven't seen just a pure power team all year. I think it took us a little bit to get adjusted to what they're doing and our defense did a fine job."
The Reb offense went on a 10-play, clock-eating drive that ended with a punt with less than two minutes left in the game.
Stowers ended the Wildcats comeback chance by intercepting a desperation fourth down halfback pass by Hannah at the Rebel 46.
The Rebel rushers were led by Stowers' 114 yards on 14 carries.