MILDRED -- Rivalry games are supposed to be close games, where you can never quite tell what is going to happen. This year’s game between the Mildred Eagles and the Blooming Grove Lions did not disappoint. The Mildred Eagles won 40-27.
The Eagles jumped ahead early to a 34-6 lead at halftime. The Lions roared back scoring 21 points in the third and 4th quarters closing within a touchdown of the Eagles, before the Eagles scored late in the 4th quarter finally sealing the game.
The Eagles played outstanding on both sides of the ball in the first half with the Eagle defense playing its best ball of the season. They kept the Blooming Grove attack grounded into the 3rd quarter where the Lions caught some breaks. The Lions kept attacking and pushed the Eagles to the brink.
Bishop Harris turned in another outstanding game for the Eagles rushing for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns and throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass to Cody Hayes.
Carson Rucks turned in an outstanding performance for the Lions throwing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Mildred started the game fast scoring on their 1st drive when Creed Baker found a lane and scored on a 15-yard touchdown run. The Eagles forced a Lion punt then drove the field this time Preston Kindle pushed the ball across the goal line from 2 yards out. The Eagles kicked and recovered an onside kick, but Michael Adkins picked off the Creed Baker pass giving the ball back to the Lions. The Lions were again forced to punt.
The Eagles took over at their 13 yard line then drove the length of the field with Creed Baker scoring his second touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run.
The Lions found some cracks in the Eagle defense with a 33 yard Carson Rucks pass to Jalen Coleman to get into the red zone. Three plays later, Coleman found a hole and scampered 4 yards for the touchdown.
The Eagles answered right back on their first play from scrimmage when Bishop Harris raced 56 yards for the touchdown. The Lions subsequently drove back into Eagle territory before turning the ball over on downs. Three plays later, on a trick play, Bishop Harris hit Cody Hayes on a 63-yard pass for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the half. The touchdown gave the Eagles a commanding 34-6 lead going into halftime
The third quarter proved to be all Lions. The Lions and Eagles traded punts on their opening drives. Then Carson Rucks, on the Lions second drive, hit a Damon Lovett wide open after an Eagle defender slipped for a 50-yard touchdown. The Lion defense again forced the Eagles to punt. Rucks hit Bubba Beacom for a 51-yard pass on the opening play setting up a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rucks to Lovett a few plays later.
The Eagles answered back driving deep into Lion Territory where a Lion stripped the ball from Creed Baker. Bubba Beacom was able to recover for the Lions. The Lions scored again a few plays later when Jalen Coleman found an opening and raced 45 yards for the touchdown. With this touchdown, the Lions were able to close the score to 34-27 with plenty of time left in the game.
The Eagles sealed the game on their next drive. Bishop Harris raced 52 yards on the first play before being pushed out at the Lion 11 yard line. Three plays later saw Harris score from 1 yard out effectively sealing the victory.
The Lions would not give up and started driving back again. This time Eagle, Daniel Ayers, was able to step in front of a Rucks pass, the interception gave the Eagles back the ball who ran the ball down to the Lion 1 yard line when time expired.
This was an outstanding game. The Eagles played near flawless in the first half, starting fast offensively and playing some of the best defense they had played all season. Their tackling was on point and they were flying to the ball keeping the Lions from breaking free.
Give the Lions credit though. They played hard and never stopped fighting. They caught a couple of breaks in the third quarter and were able to turn those into points. Carson Rucks had an outstanding second half and was on point with his throws. The Lion defense clamped down on the Eagles and kept the Eagle attack from breaking open throughout most of the second half.
When the season started, it was expected that the final spot in the playoffs would come down to Rice, Blooming Grove, and Mildred. Blooming Grove came out on the worse end to both Rice and Mildred but gave both teams more than they wanted. The Lions played hard and have no reason to hold their heads down.
For the Eagles, they needed a win to keep their playoff dreams alive. They played better tonight than they had in the past few weeks on both sides of the ball. They were flying to the ball and kept the Lions attack wrapped up for most of the game. Again they gave up a few big plays, but overall they well.
Offensively for the Eagles, they started fast and kept pushing in the first half. They bogged down in the third quarter but had success rushing and throwing in the fourth.
Speaking with Coach Dalton, the difference was the first half, “We came out playing great defense, limiting Blooming Grove. We had some big plays early and we really executed well. In the second half, we did not play as hard as we needed to and they caught some breaks. Overall I’m proud of our guys. It was a good team win.”
The Eagles travel next week to Edgewood in a must-win game to keep their playoff dreams alive while Blooming Grove host Palmer to close out their season.