Knights come up short in Mid 8 Championship


GRAFTON— The Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) Knights football team conclude their season on Wednesday evening with a heartbreaking loss to the Philippi Middle Bulldogs. 

After boasting a perfect 8-0 regular season, the Knights earned the right to host the Mid 8 Championship game at McKinney field, but unfortunately, this would be the only contest of the year that would not go in favor of TCMS.

The Knights would receive from the Bulldogs to get the contest underway, with the ball being spotted at the 45. 

Eighth grader Kaden Keener accepted the hand off from QB Chace Kinsey and showed a true display of athleticism when met with trouble in the back field. 

After being pushed back well behind the line of scrimmage, Keener escaped the clutches of several Bulldog defenders and was able to bring the ball up to the 20-yard line for the Knights. 

The next play of the opening drive would see Troy Weber earning TCMS another first down, and the Knights would end the drive three plays in with a touchdown run by Jaxson Hall with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter. 

TCMS’s extra point attempt failed, but they took the early 6-0 lead. The remainder of first half play was fast paced, and well matched. 

The Knights held strong shutting down the Bulldogs first drive with a fumble recovery by Hall, putting Taylor County back in control of the ball at the 38-yard line. 

Unfortunately, the Knights were met with strong defense from their opponents, and the drive ended in a rare four and out for TCMS.

With 6:23 left in the first half, the Bulldogs began their long possession from the 37-yard line.

With just 17 seconds left in the half, the Bulldogs would go for a long pass on a fourth down, which was intercepted by Keener.

Holding the Bulldogs scoreless throughout the first half, the Knights went into the break with the 6-0 lead. 

TCMS held strong to maintain the lead until late in the third quarter then the Bulldogs finally found success in their air game, connecting a pass to their #12, who was able to run it in to the endzone to tie the game 6-6. 

With a successful attempt on the extra points, Philippi gained an 8-6 lead that the Knights were unable to come back from.

Penalties and mental mistakes plagued the Knights for the remainder of action, and before the close of the third, the Bulldogs had managed to make it into the end zone once again, widening their lead to 14-6. 

Unable to gain any momentum, the Knights ball carriers were continuously met in the back field and struggled to gain yardage, coming away with empty possessions. 

The Bulldogs took advantage of the Knights’ struggles and were quick to add to their lead, taking over at the 20-yard line and running into the endzone for the 20-6 lead. 

As time was running down, the Knights put together a solid series and Hall broke away for a TD. However, a penalty for an illegal block in the back would call the score back.

Despite being able to hold them off for the first half, the Bulldogs found their stride in the second and earned the 20-6 victory. 

While devastating for the Knights, the young team made history going undefeated for the first time under the leadership of Head Coach Bobby Beltner, who wrapped up his fourth year in the position. 

“This was obviously not the outcome we wanted, but we just didn’t play well,” Beltner said. “They capitalized on our one turnover, where we failed to do so on the two turnovers we forced.” 

He also noted that penalties contributed greatly to the outcome saying, “Those mistakes hurt us, as well. Especially the called back touchdown on our last drive of the game. It was about to get interesting, but they felt the need to throw a flag.” 

Beltner gave props to the Bulldogs on their win but was sure not to let the loss dampen the spirits of his hard-working team. 

“I told the kids after the game that one game does not define the great season we had,” he expressed. “With 19 of our 28 kids back next year, we won’t rebuild, we will just reload.”

Beltner also shared gratitude to all those who were involved in making this season of Knights football one to remember. 

Individual player stats: 

Kaden Keener: 15 carries, 83 yards, 0-1 passing, 7 tackles, 1 interception, Jaxson Hall: 4 carries, 13 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble recovery, Troy Weber: 10 carries, 74 yards, 9 tackles, Chace Kinsey: 0-2 passing, Braydon White: 3 tackles, Riley Humphries: 3 tackles. 

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