In the opinion of most, the Ava Bears went into last Friday night’s SCA football game with the Liberty Eagles as huge underdogs. But rather than lick their wounds before the game started, the Bears entered the contest with the determination that they would excel – and that they did.
The Bears scored first and never trailed in the football game played on Ava’s Silvey Field. But when the Liberty Eagles scored with 1:18 left to pull within one point, the game was on the line.
Liberty had gone for the 2-point conversion three times before and had been successful only once, but the decision was to go for the win rather than the tie. Quarterback Jaelon Acklin kept the ball and was stopped short of the goal line by the Ava defense, and the Bears were then able to run the clock out for the big SCA win, 27-26.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears scored on the first play of the second period on a 1-yard run by senior Caleb Miles. With 11:55 on the second-quarter clock, Ben Loge kicked the point-after to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The first quarter was a defensive battle with each team punting twice before the Bears began their scoring drive with 4:42 on the clock.
The Bears picked up first downs on runs by Miles and Kyle Clinkingbeard, and on a pass from Loge to Chance Boyd at the 10-yard line. Clinkingbeard would carry twice more to get to the Liberty 1-yard line before the quarter ended.
Miles had the best offensive night of his varsity football career Friday night, carrying 21 times for 117 yards and one touchdown.
Clinkingbeard carried 28 time for 98 yards and three touchdowns.
After Ava scored early in the second period, the Eagles mounted a scoring drive of their own, concluding with a 6-yard run by Cody Smith. The big play of the drive was a 60-yard pass play from Acklin to James Denton who was caught from behind and taken down at the Ava 6-yard line.
Smith got the call on the 2-point conversion attempt and was stopped short of the goal, preserving Ava’s 7-6 lead at 10:02.
Liberty got the ball in excellent field position with 7:50 left in the first half when the Eagles blocked an Ava punt and recovered the ball at the Ava 26-yard line. Liberty would get all the way down to the Ava 7 where the Bears would take over on downs after a strong defensive effort by the home team.
Liberty forced the Bears to punt the ball away, but the Eagles’ Daniel French fumbled the ball on the return and Ava regained control on the recovery at the Liberty 42-yard line. The Bears punted on fourth-and-4 and Liberty took over with 1:26 left in the first half.
The Eagles were moving the ball with confidence late in the quarter but were flagged for an ineligible receiver on a completion at the 15-yard line that would take the ball back to the 40, and the clock would wind down with no more damage being done, and the Bears were content to take a 7-6 lead to the dressing room at halftime.
The Bears would score twice in the third period on runs of 10 and 4 yards by Clinkingbeard, and Liberty scored on a 51-yard touchdown run by Denton.
Ava’s first score of the period was set up by a 64-yard run by Miles who was taken down at the 10-yard line of Liberty. Clinkingbeard scored on the next play with 8:19 on the clock. Loge’s kick hit the left upright and went through to give the Bears a 14-6 lead.
Liberty would answer on the next possession with the long touchdown run by Denton, and Smith got the call on the 2-point conversion attempt. One official ruled he broke the plane of the goal, but was overruled by two other officials who said no. At 7:02 in the third period the Bears held a narrow 14-12 lead.
Buster Davis recovered the squib kick at the Ava 42-yard line and Loge and Miles each picked up first downs to put the Bears in scoring position once again. Clinkingbeard picked up a first down at the Liberty 2. After losing back to the 4, Clinkingbeard scored from there with 49 seconds left in the third period to give the Bears a 20-12 lead. The kick failed after the Bears were backed up five yards for a procedure penalty.
Refusing to quit, Liberty got a nice return on the ensuing kick, and a late hit by Ava gave the Eagles a first down at the Ava 24. After the chains were moved to start the fourth quarter, Acklin passed to Denton for an 11-yard scoring pass play, and Acklin passed to Denton for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 20-20 with 11:05 remaining.
Chance Boyd returned Liberty’s kick to the 19 and the Bears would go 81 yards to score at 2:58 on a 2-yard run by Clinkingbeard. Loge’s kick put the Bears back on top 27-20.
It looked like the Bears might have scored too soon when Liberty came right back to score the potential tying or winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining, but the failed 2-point conversion would be the difference in the game.
Just before the touchdown by Acklin, a 6-yard touchdown by Smith was brought back for a blocking in the back call.
With the Bears leading 27-26 following the Liberty touchdown, Ava only had to protect the ball for 1:18.
Liberty’s on-side kick failed to travel the required 10 yards, so the Bears took over at the Ava 47. Loge took a knee and ran the clock down to 35 seconds when Liberty would take its final timeout. Ava had to snap the ball one more time to start the clock, but when Loge downed the ball the last time the clock would run out to secure Ava’s win.
Quarterback Loge ran for 33 yards on three carries Friday night including two option keepers in the second half that earned first downs for the Bears.
Overall, the Bears rushed for 248 yards and Loge completed four of seven passes for 59 yards, for total offense of 307 yards.
Austin Gastineau had two receptions for 39 yards and Boyd had two catches for 20 yards.
Buster Davis led the Ava defense with 12 tackles and Zach Taylor had 10, including two for loss yardage.
John Luebbering had six tackles, and one for loss yardage.
This week the Bears will pack up and travel to Salem to face the undefeated Tigers at their place.
Coach Dan Swofford says the Tigers are big, and are just a good football team. Basically, they just do the same stuff they’ve always done.
On Friday, Sept. 28, the Bears will be back home to play Houston, and it will be Homecoming at Harlan Stadium.