Though the contest remained in question until the final seconds, the West Carroll Junior High War Eagles effectively defended their turf and claimed homecoming bragging rights Thursday night as they defeated the visiting Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central Middle School Tigers 18-14.
Offensively, the battle was spearheaded by West Carroll’s Joshua Clark and Central’s Mason Barton, both of whom did most of the legwork for their teams when it came to moving the ball on the ground.
Defensively, both teams were fairly stubborn about giving ground, but once either team pushed up to within 30 or so yards of the goal line, neither West Carroll’s nor Central’s defenses had much luck in stopping the inevitable touchdown.
Defensive stops on two-point conversion attempts, however, turned out to be an important factor in the game.
The Tigers tried for the onside kick on the opening kickoff, but the War Eagles managed to grab the ball near the 50.
Two plays later a sack and fumble recovery by Barton handed the Tigers their first possession right at midfield.
Central had pushed forward as far as West Carroll’s 32-yard line when a fourth-down tackle by Cody Wildridge handed the ball back to the War Eagles at their own 30-yard line.
This time the War Eagles made good on the turnover, putting together an eight-play drive that was consummated in a 30-yard scoring run by Clark in the last few seconds of the first quarter. Central stopped the two-point attempt, but West Carroll was up 6-0 going into the second stanza.
The ball then went through a series of quick turnovers as West Carroll recovered a Central fumble on the kickoff return, but then the Tigers returned the favor a few seconds later with a fumble recovery at their own 45.
The Tigers drove on down to West Carroll’s 5-yard line, and Barton put it in for six. Central’s Malik Mathes crashed his way in for two, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game 8-6.
The War Eagles retook the lead less than a minute later as Dylan Cox slipped around the right side and kept on going for a 38-yard touchdown. Though the conversion attempt failed, West Carroll was back on top 12-8 — a score that held to the half and through a scoreless third quarter.
The third period ended on a cliffhanger with Central poised at West Carroll’s 5-yard line on a fourth down. In a do-or- die situation, Barton gained the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. West Carroll stopped the two-point attempt, but the Tigers were again in the lead 14-12.
The War Eagles then set out on the most prolonged drive of the game, finally scoring on a two-yard touchdown carry by Clark with just over a minute left in the game. But a failed conversion attempt left the door wide open for a quick turnaround win by the Tigers.
Hoping to steal the victory but nearly out of time, the Tigers went to the air, but their hopes were dashed when West Carroll’s Jack Barrow intercepted a Central pass with just 24 seconds remaining. From there, all the War Eagles had to do was take a knee and let the clock burn.
The War Eagles traveled to Huntingdon Tuesday night to face the Mustangs, though results from that game were not available as of press time Monday. The War Eagles will conclude their regular season September 29 at home against Greenfield.
The Tigers will hosting the Camden Lions Thursday night starting at 6:30 p.m.