Bobcats refuse to lose: 4th-quarter TDs lift Berryville to victory
The Berryville Bobcats had an opportunity to quit on themselves early in the fourth quarter last Friday night against West Fork.
Instead of giving up, however, the Bobcats responded with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to win 33-20 at Bobcat Stadium.
“It was a physical game,” first-year Berryville coach Bryan Hutson said. “They had a lot of size. They were huge, actually. Early on, that gave us a little bit of problems but I think our depth wore on them a little bit in the fourth quarter. And our kids didn’t give up, which was huge.”
The win was Hutson’s first as Berryville’s head coach and the Bobcats’ first since a 42-14 victory at Green Forest in the final game of the 2019 season. It was Berryville’s first win at home since the Bobcats beat West Fork 41-0 on Sept. 6, 2019.
“That first one’s always a tough one, so we’re happy,” Hutson said.
West Fork, which trailed 19-6 after a 28-yard touchdown run by Berryville junior Tun Oo, cut Berryville’s lead to 19-13 with a TD run in the final minute of the third quarter. The Tigers then seemed to seize all the momentum by scooping up a Berryville fumble and returning it 55 yards for a touchdown just 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. The extra-point kick put West Fork ahead 20-19 with 11:48 left to play.
With a prime opportunity to fold, the Bobcats refused. Instead, Berryville answered on its second play from scrimmage after the West Fork touchdown. Oo took a handoff up the middle and followed great blocking from the offensive line for a 50-yard touchdown sprint that put Berryville back in front. After a penalty against West Fork, Oo added the two-point conversion run for a 27-20 Berryville lead.
“It was a huge momentum swing for them when they went up 20-19,” Hutson said. “It’s a good sign that our kids didn’t give up at that point. I was super proud of that.”
Hutson praised the Bobcats’ offensive line — junior left tackle Ben Heinitz, senior left guard William Redd, senior center Ross Nance, junior right guard Kole Coatney and senior right tackle Damian Helmlinger. On Oo’s 50-yard touchdown run, Redd blocked two West Fork defenders while Heinitz and Helmlinger pulled to take out a pair of linebackers. Oo did the rest, splitting a pair of defenders just inside the 40-yard line before going untouched the rest of the way,
“I’ve challenged them all year long,” Hutson said of the offensive line. “I think they could be one of the better parts of our football team. I think they took charge of the game. We had almost 370 yards rushing. So hats off to them for that.”
Senior Jaeden Tanksley ran for 229 yards and two touchdowns, while Oo had 129 yards. Tanksley’s first TD run, from two yards out late in the first quarter tied the game at 6-6 before senior Freddy Roque’s extra point put the Bobcats ahead 7-6. His second, a 41-yard run on which he broke a tackle in the backfield, followed a block from Helmlinger and then bounced to the right sideline, extended Berryville’s lead to 33-20 with 5:22 left.
Sophomore Zane Gentry gave Berryville a 13-6 halftime lead when he caught a wide receiver screen from sophomore quarterback Chris Hipps behind the line of scrimmage and raced 42 yards for a touchdown with 1:29 left in the second quarter.
Oo’s 28-yard touchdown run with 3:57 left in the third quarter put Berryville ahead 19-6 before a West Fork touchdown cut the Bobcats’ lead to 19-13 with 43 seconds remaining in the quarter.
With an open date this Friday, Hutson said the Bobcats would have an extra day off before returning to practice Tuesday. “I told the kids if we won, they could have Monday off,” he said. “Maybe that’s what it takes.”