And a 22-point loss was certainly not the outcome they had ultimately hoped for.
But regardless of what they had planned or hoped for, the Cave City Cavemen's second-ever trip to the Class 3A State Football Playoffs came to an end Nov. 20 with a 34-12 loss to the homestanding Paris Eagles.
When the playoff brackets initially came out, Cave City was scheduled to open the first round with a much shorter trip to Yellville-Summit in Marion County, to face a team the Cavemen had beaten in a week three non-conference matchup.
This was after Lamar High School was ruled out of the playoffs by the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) for having used an ineligible player, resulting in the forfeiture of five conference victories by the Warriors.
But Lamar was granted an injunction by a judge the week the Class 3A playoffs were set to start.
So, after suspending the Class 3A playoffs for what turned out to be a week, the AAA reluctantly installed the Warriors back into the hunt for a state title. Atkins, the team that benefited from Lamar's removal by the AAA by gaining entrance into the playoffs, was knocked out of contention when the Warriors were put back in the mix.
With Lamar, Paris, Yellville-Summit and Atkins all members of the conference (4-3A) that Cave City's conference (3-3A) was pitted against to open the playoffs, that decision to reinstate Lamar changed the Cavemen's travel plans from Yellville to Paris, located in Logan County.
And when Cave City (9-2) arrived in Paris, it found an inspired bunch of Eagles (8-3) waiting.
Paris broke open what had been a close game at the half by turning two Cave City turnovers into two touchdowns in the third quarter, helping the Eagles outscore the Cavemen 20-0 in the frame.
Cave City's normally dependable running game was pretty much held in check by Paris over the course of the night. That was partly due to the absence of Cave City's leading rusher, Tyler Engleman, who after posting over 1,200 yards on the ground, suffered an ACL injury against Harrisburg and was lost for the remainder of the season.
Neither side was able to post any points in the first quarter of play, although it sure looked like Cave City had found a way to jump on top first.
On the second-to-last snap of the first quarter, with the ball at the Paris 30-yard line, Cave City's dynamic play-making linebacker Thamail Morgan simply pulled the ball free from the grasp of Eagles' quarterback Andrew Rieder and strolled into the end zone. But the officials ruled that the play had been blown dead, leaving the game scoreless through the first 12 minutes of play.
Paris went on to finish out that drive midway into the second quarter on a 3-yard QB keeper from Rieder on second-and-goal. The PAT gave Paris a 7-0 lead at the 8:52 mark.
Cave City's next possession ended with a fumble that Austin Sevier picked up at the Caveman 45-yard line.
Six plays later, Mason Koenigseder scampered free for a 23-yard touchdown that boosted the Eagles in front 14-0 with 1:07 left until the half.
Needing to get something going in a hurry, the Cavemen did just that.
Cave City quarterback Dalton Carpenter (131 yards passing) hit Nick Townsend (82 yards receiving) with three straight passes that moved the ball from the Cave City 29 all the way to the Paris 19-yard line.
Carpenter's fourth pass was picked off in the end zone by Josh Parsons, but the Eagles were flagged for pass interference, giving Cave City the ball back at the 1-yard line.
On first-and-goal, Carpenter found Morgan for a touchdown pass with 13.5 ticks left on the clock. After a penalty pushed the point-after try back, Cave City went for the 2-point conversion, but came short, sending the game to intermission with the home team on top 14-6.
After the way the Cavemen struggled to find much rhythm in the first half, to be down just by one TD at the break was huge for Cave City.
However, that changed quicker than the blink of an eye in the third quarter.
Paris capped a 47-yard, six-play drive on its first possession of the second half with a 1-yard touchdown from Rieder just two minutes into the third.
The extra-point pushed the Eagles in front 21-6.
Cave City made it to midfield on its next series before fumbling the football back to Paris.
Three snaps later, Alex Patterson found a hole and ran 49 yards down the middle of the field for the Eagles' second touchdown of the third. The PAT was no good, but Paris had opened some breathing room with a 27-6 advantage.
And things continued to get worse for Cave City.
Cave City's next possession ended after one snap as Dilyn Orr picked off a Carpenter pass attempt.
The Eagles turned that Cave City miscue into more points on a 43-yard TD run from Patterson with 4:40 still left in the third, helping Paris to a commanding 34-6 lead after three.
Cave City did post another touchdown on a 16-yard run from Townsend with 2:10 left in the game. The 2-point conversion was stopped, leaving Paris with a 34-12 victory over the Cavemen.