Bearcats lose shootout to Winona 41-21

By JAMES PHILLIPS PHOTO BY BILLY FREEMAN,

The Forest Bearcats knew going into last Friday night’s game that they did not want to end up in a high scoring game with the 2017 Class 2A state runner-up Winona Tigers. The Forest defense faced a tough task in trying to slow down the high scoring Tiger offense which had averaged 37 points-per-game while allowing opponents to score only 11 points-per-game in their three previous wins.     

Forest head coach Jonathan Worrell said his team’s game plan was to slow down Winona’s high-powered offense through ball control, possessing the ball as long as possible and keeping the Tigers’ offense on the sideline. The Forest game plan was simple enough, but from the beginning everything went exactly opposite of the game plan. After three offensive possessions the two teams had already combined to score 21 points, and the shootout was on. When their game plan flew out of the window the Bearcats were not able to keep up with the scoring pace of Winona who racked up 418 yards on offense while holding the Bearcats to 193 total yards. Winona successfully defended their home turf with a 41-21 victory over the visiting Bearcats. The loss left the Cats record at 2-2 on the season while Winona remained undefeated moving to 4-0.

The first quarter began with a scoring outburst. The homestanding Tigers received the opening kickoff and wasted no time marching right down field to score the game’s first touchdown to take the early 7-0 lead. Forest answered the opening scoring bell with a scoring drive of their own capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by senior RB Paul Hughes which evened the score at 7-7. After receiving the ensuing kickoff, Winona’s offense got right back to work completing a second scoring drive to take the lead again at 14-7. On the Bearcats’ next possession, they were driving, but just as they were about to cross midfield sophomore QB Dashun Lofton fumbled the football on a bad handoff exchange and the ball was recovered by Winona in Bearcat territory. The Tigers brought the home fans to their feet after making quick work of the short field with a 37-yard pass completion, followed up a few plays later with a 10-yard run by QB An’Darius Coffey for the Tigers third touchdown of the opening quarter. The lead had been stretched to 21-7 which is where the score would stand as the first quarter came to an end.

When the second quarter got underway, Forest put together another scoring drive to answer when Hughes again carried the rock to the promise land from 8-yards out to tighten up the score at 21-14. Winona would stretch their lead back to 13 points before halftime when they scored another touchdown, but missed the PAT, making the score 27-14 when the teams headed in for halftime.

After the halftime intermission the Tigers came out and scored quickly just as they did to start the game. Aided by two Bearcat fumbles the home team tacked on two third quarter touchdowns while holding the visiting Bearcats scoreless in the quarter. By the end of the third quarter the Tigers had taken a commanding 41-14 lead. Bearcat RB Paul Hughes added a fourth quarter rushing touchdown which closed out the scoring for the night. Hughes was the only Bearcat to find paydirt on the night and finished the night with 3 rushing touchdowns. As the clock hit all zeros and the final whistle blew the visiting Bearcats suffered the loss by the final score of 41-21.

“The game played out exactly opposite of the game plan we came in with,” said Coach Worrell. “We wanted to slow the game down and work the clock, but when you have a 21-14 ballgame after the first quarter it was clear we were in a shootout.” He was not happy with the outcome, but he was pleased with the effort his team put forth. “I was pleased with how we played as far as effort,” said Worrell. “Due to injuries we have had guys playing new positions they have never played before, but I believe we have our personnel issues worked out moving forward.”

Forest will host the winless Florence Eagles for homecoming this Friday night, but Worrell said don’t let the Eagles 0-4 record fool you. “The first thing you see is their 0-4 record, but then when you see them on tape they are a really good 0-4 team that is dangerous offensively,” explained Worrell. The game is set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at L.O. Atkins Field when Forest will look to stop their two game loosing streak and get back to winning football.