Tigers end season with one-point loss to Baker 20-19
by Michael DeVuyst, Contributing writer
BLOUNTSTOWN - The Blountstown Tigers lost a heartbreaker last Friday night in the Class A State Semifinal game against the Baker Gators 20-19. The team struggled all season long with penalties and in the kicking game but have been able to escape games with opponents of lesser talent. Those two facets of the game came back to haunt them against an experienced Baker team. The Tigers suffered through 15 penalties for 114 yards and missed two PAT’s and a makeable FG just before the half, leaving a total of 5 points off of the scoreboard. Statistically, the Tigers lead in every category except the most important: total points. The Tiger offense rolled up 374 total yards, ran 22 more plays and won the time of possession battle. The reliable Tiger defense played well all night long but had one let down on a missed tackle that led to a 62 yard Baker TD run to seal the victory for the Gators. Baker finished the night with 206 total yards with 62 of those yards coming on the one big play.
Blountstown would take advantage of a muffed punt to start the second quarter. Tiger Tristen Burke pounced on the Gator fumble on the Gator 35 yard line. A seven play drive aided by a pass interference call and a 4th and 1 conversion run by Bryson Horne was capped off by a 3 yard run by Trevon Mathews. The Locke Pohto PAT gave the Tigers the 7-0 lead with 8:46 left in the 2nd quarter. The Gators would answer with a seven play drive of their own going 64 yards on their next possession. A four yard run and PAT would tie the score at 7 with 6:03 left in the half. The Gators would score quickly again off of a Tiger turnover. A Gator sack and fumble recovery would see Baker start their next drive inside Tiger territory on the 28 yard line. A Tiger penalty would add insult to injury and move the Gators 10 yards closer to the goal line. After converting a 4th and 1 from the 8 yard line, the Gators would score two plays later on a 1 yard run. The PAT was no good but the Gators took the lead at 13-7 with 1:12 left in the half. The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and got into the red zone on four pass completions with :03 left in the half. A Tiger 36 yard FG attempt sailed to the left as the half ended with Baker in the lead at 13-7.
The second half opened up with back-to-back punts. The Tigers would tie things up on their second possession of the half. The Tigers would go 73 yards on 5 plays but it was not easy. A 47 yard TD run was called back due to a Tiger penalty. On the next play, facing a 2nd and 22 from the Tiger 41 yard line, Tiger QB Horne hit Burke on a 59 yard pass up the right seam for the Tiger TD. The PAT tied the score at 13 with 6:09 in the 3rd quarter. Momentum was on the Tigers’ side and the Tiger defense forced a 3 and out on Baker’s next possession. After the punt, the Tigers would move quickly into Baker territory down to the 37 yard line. The Tigers could not convert a 3rd and 1 and a 4th and 2 and turned the ball over on downs. But the Tiger defense stood tall again forcing a second consecutive 3 and out. The Tigers opened up the 4th quarter after receiving the punt on their own 32 yard line. The Tigers would go on a monster time-consuming drive of 14 plays to pull ahead. They traveled 68 yards overcoming five penalties and a sack. The Tigers chewed up 7:14 of clock and converted four, third downs on the drive including a 24 yard reception to Burke from Horne, taking the ball to the Baker 1 yard line. A Tiger penalty would push the ball back to the 6. On 3rd and goal from the 6, Horne would find Jamal Howard on a crossing route for the Tiger TD. The PAT hit the crossbar and bounced back into the field of play. The Tiger TD put the Tigers ahead 19-13 with 4:46 left in the game. Unfortunately, for Tiger fans the lead was short lived. On the first play after the kick off, a missed tackle on the left sideline allowed the Baker running back to get the edge and race 62 yards for the Gator score. The Gator PAT was good and the Gators took the lead at 20-19 with 4:27 left in the game. The Tigers could not move the ball on their next possession and were forced to punt with 2:47 left to play. The Tiger defense would hold the Gators and the Tiger offense had one more possession but only 31 seconds to work with and 75 yards to get to the end zone. Four passes and a run would push the ball to the Baker 44 with a few seconds left. The Tiger last gasp Hail Mary pass would fall incomplete and their season was over at 20-19. Blountstown finishes the year at 10-3. The Baker Gators (13-0) advance to play the Pahokee Blue Devils (13-0) in the Class A State Finals on Thursday, Dec. 8 in Orlando.
Tiger QB Bryson Horne led the offense going 20-35 passing for 247 yards with 2 TD’s and 0 INT’s. Trevon Mathews led the Tiger rushing attack with 67 yards on 13 carries with Denzel Washington chipping in 30 yards on 7 carries. Tristen Burke led all receivers with 136 yards on 10 catches. Jamal Howard finished with 60 yards on 5 catches and K.K. Godwin had 37 yards on 4 receptions. Kyle Skipper, Javas Davis, Alex Buggs, Shad Johnson and Trevon Mathews all had double digit tackles for the Tiger defense.
Despite the heartbreak, Tiger Head Coach Greg Jordan had nothing but glowing comments about his 2016 squad, “Nobody gave these kids a chance to get this far. We started the season slow. Lost an early district game and found ourselves on the outside looking in. We ended up winning the district in a 3-team playoff. This team got better and better every week and we were playing our best ball at the end when it counted. They say football is a game of inches and if we could have made just one more tackle or got a kick to go our way, who knows what could have happened in this game.”
As area coaches come and go, 2016 was Coach Jordan’s 11th year as head coach at his alma mater. Coach Jordan has compiled an outstanding 93-40 record for the Tigers. That’s a .700 winning percentage and an amazing average of 8.5 wins per year. Coach Jordan’s teams have earned 5 District Titles and have been runner-up in the District 5 times, only missing the playoffs one year. The Tigers have played an incredible 21 playoff games in the last 11 years, earning 3 Region Championships, 3 State Semifinal appearances and 1 State Runner-Up title.