Falkville falls behind early, eventually loses 56-20 to Bears in first round of playoffs
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
LEXINGTON – The Blue Devils might not have made it far in the postseason, but they've taken a big step toward turning their program around.
Falkville's first trip to the playoffs in six years was a brief one, as the Blue Devils fell 56-20 to the Golden Bears. Falkville turned the ball over five times in the game and had three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
"We had three picks for touchdowns," Falkville coach Neil Estes said. "That really got the score out of kilter right there. It was a much closer game without those three or four plays, but they count, so we've got to deal with it."
The Bears' record improved to 10-1; next up for Lexington is Fyffe, who defeated Randolph County 21-14.
The Golden Bears swept out to a dominating first half lead, up 42-6 at the halftime break. The Blue Devils continued to fight in the second half, making the score more respectable with a touchdown run by senior Blake Jump and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jonathan Oagles.
Oagles, a freshman linebacker, and freshman quarterback Jonathan McNatt both started the season with Falkville's junior varsity before being called up to the varsity team.
"I'm proud of our kids' effort, they played hard and didn't give up even when they were down a lot," Estes said. "We could have run the ball more and kept the score down, but we're not going to do that – you don't learn anything by doing that. We had a freshman quarterback and it's plain to see that he's only going to improve the next few years."
Falkville opened the game and marched down to the Lexington 30-yard line before a critical mistake cost the Blue Devils. McNatt took the snap and tried to throw the ball to Jump in the flat, but Lexington's Jimmy Springer read the play perfectly and returned the interception 70 yards for a touchdown.
"We had a call that I thought was going to be pretty good and instead we ran the wrong play, but that kind of stuff happens," Estes said. "We kept fighting even after they got that early score off us, but the interceptions killed us in the long run. They did a super job defensively against what we tried to do, but we made several mistakes that were unforced errors and it really turned the game."
Lexington added a score with five minutes left in the first quarter on a 37-yard run by Jeremy Beavers. Falkville answered three minutes later with a creative play. McNatt took the snap and pitched to Cody Simpson, who found Jeremy Stiles open for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Blue Devils' extra point attempt was blocked.
The Bears added a touchdown on their next possession, with quarterback Drew Williams taking it in himself from the 2-yard line.
Falkville lost a chance to regain momentum in the second quarter when Cory Shadden dropped a wide open pass that would have given the Blue Devils a first down near the Lexington 20-yard line. Instead, the Blue Devils had to punt.
On Falkville's next possession, Mitchell Oliver intercepted a McNatt pass and returned it 36 yards for a Lexington touchdown. Williams ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 28-6.
"(McNatt) is a gamer," Estes said of his young signal caller. "He gets down on himself too much sometimes. It takes everybody – you know, you've got to have the protection; the receivers have got to run the right routes. We had some drops that hurt us. It was 21-6 and we had one wide open down there that if we catch and score, it's a totally new game. So, you know, three or four plays there really hurt us – that interception on the screen that wasn't called in the first place, and that drop…but that's football. It usually comes down to three or four plays. My hat's off to Coach Putnam – they were ready to play."
Lexington added two more touchdowns in the second quarter on a 37-yard pass from Williams to Mitch Eubank and on a 66-yard run by Ryan Toner.
Lexington scored two more touchdowns in the second half on a 3-yard run by Matthew Weigart and a 26-yard interception return by Williams, who played both ways for the Bears.
Falkville's record finished at 4-7, but that's still a far cry from the Blue Devils' combined record of 3-17 the past two seasons. A junior varsity squad that finished 7-0 this season adds additional optimism for the Blue Devil faithful in the near future.
"Hopefully our younger kids will take it to heart and get in the weight room," Estes said. "You know, we played (Lexington) two years ago and they were a lot of 10th graders and freshmen then. They've worked and they've definitely improved. They were the most physical team we've played this year, by far.
"We've got good kids, and we've got some good support. We had some good things happen this year and we just need to keep it going in the right direction."