CLAY, WV—For the second time in as many weeks, the Grafton Bearcats football team played an opponent that they have never played before in the history of their program.
A week after dropping a 27-0 contest to Northern (MD) at McKinney Field, the Grafton Bearcats (1-4) hit the road for the third time this season, traveling two hours to the small town of Clay to face off against the Clay County Panthers (3-2) on Friday.
The Bearcats would have success moving the ball after their offensive production had dwindled since Week 1, but Clay County would take advantage of some big plays throughout the game, knocking off the Bearcats by the score of 42-21 at Bradley Field.
Grafton would kick off to the Panthers to begin the game and the Panthers would return the kick 23-yard line to begin their drive. After two short passes, the Panthers would strike big, connecting on a 77-yard TD pass with 11:45 left in the 1st quarter to take a quick 6-0 lead. After a failed two-point conversion, the Panthers would kick off to the Bearcats leading by the score of 6-0.
Starting at their own 36-yard line, Grafton would put together a solid 10-play drive which consisted of a mix of runs by running backs Dillon Williams, Devin Vanscoy, and James Hoskins. Hoskins would finish the drive with a 10-yard TD run and after the extra point by senior Joey Dingeldein was good, the Bearcats would take the lead, 7-6.
Clay County would turn the ball over on their next possession on downs, and after a mix of GHS runs and passes, Grafton QB Tanner Moats would find senior WR Braeden Nose for a 24-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left in the 1st quarter. Dingeldein would again convert the extra point to extend Grafton’s lead to 14-6.
The Bearcats’ lead would be short-lived as Clay County would return the ensuing kickoff for a TD, bringing the score to 14-14 after the Panthers converted their two-point conversion attempt on the very next play.
The start of the second quarter would see the two teams trade drives until the Panthers connected on a long TD pass with 4:16 left in the 2nd quarter to bring the score to 20-14 after the Panthers failed on their two-point conversion attempt. After trading drives again with neither teaming finding the end zone, the Panthers would take a 20-14 halftime lead into the locker room.
The Bearcats would receive the kickoff to begin the second half and would start the drive at their own 41-yard line. After a Grafton turnover, the Panthers would strike quickly, connecting on a 38-yard TD pass and converting the two-point conversion to extend their lead to 28-14.
On their next drive, the Bearcats would again use a mix of Williams/Vanscoy/Hoskins rushes, finishing the drive with a 23-yard TD pass from Logan Beltner to Hunter Simmons. A Joey Dingeldein extra point would bring the Bearcats to within seven (28-21) halfway through the third quarter.
Clay County would lose a fumble with 3:41 left in the 3rd but the Bearcats could not capitalize, punting the ball back to the Panthers after a stalled drive. A mix of Clay County runs and passes would eventually lead to a 23-yard TD pass with 23 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, bringing the score to 36-21 in favor of the Panthers after a successful Clay County two-point conversion.
The fourth quarter would prove to be costly for the Bearcats as they couldn’t get anything going offensively and then gave up the deciding touchdown to the Panthers, a 63-yard TD pass with 5:52 left in the contest to extend the Panthers’ lead to 42-21 after a failed two-point conversion.
That score would stand after a desperate attempt by the Bearcats to get on the board late in the 4th quarter with a flurry of Logan Beltner passes to multiple receiving targets.
Although the Bearcats would drop the contest by double-digits after being down only six points at halftime, head coach Rich Bord was still pleased with what he saw from his team throughout the evening.
“We found an offensive line tonight,” said Bord. “That’s a credit to those five guys up front. I thought they did a great job. But the difference in the football game was our inability to tackle in space, especially #5 for Clay County (senior WR Logan Vance). We just couldn’t find a way to bring him down.”
Clay County quarterback Grant Krajeski had an excellent evening for the Panthers, throwing for four touchdowns in the contest while adding substantial yardage on the ground as well.
“It was the big plays that killed us tonight,” Bord stated. “The pass plays, the kickoff return, it was just a matter of being where you are supposed to be and making a tackle, and it just didn’t happen.”
The Bearcats (1-5) will be back in action Friday night as they host Braxton County (0-7) at McKinney Field in Grafton.
“We have to buckle down and continue to improve,” Bord went on to say. “If we can move the football on the ground as we did tonight, I think we have a great opportunity.”