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Keith loses second straight regional game

ORRVILLE — Keith has run into the teeth of its season, and after Friday came away twice bitten.

The Bears (5-2, 3-2 Class 2A Region 3) suffered consecutive losses after falling to Reeltown 35-0 at J.V. Caldwell Field.

A game that was sloppy on both sides came down to who could clean up its act the quickest.

The Bears were down two touchdowns at halftime — reason for optimism considering they were shorthanded and out of sync. The biggest cog in their offense, running back Clyde Moise, didn’t play Friday due to a shoulder injury.

“Clyde Moise means a lot to our team, and he’s not here,” Keith coach Harry Crum said. “He’s like the backbone of our offense.”

The Rebels (6-1, 5-0) were ahead coming out of the first half despite controlling the ball for less than eight minutes — only two minutes in the first quarter.

Special teams ended up as Reeltown’s best friend in the game. Carlton Turner fell on a blocked punt in the end zone with 5:21 left in the first quarter. A missed extra point gave Reeltown a 6-0 lead.

From then on, momentum took a downward turn for Keith.

“They got that block, and it seemed like it disoriented us,” Crum said.

Keith running back Roger Watts got stripped on a sweep midway through the second, and the ball went airborne. Reeltown’s Jacory Smith caught it in the air, stumbled for five yards and found his balance before racing for a 47-yard touchdown return.

But the referees called the play back after a block in the back. Willie McKenzie made up for the mistake a few minutes later with a 5-yard touchdown, followed by a 2-point conversion from Anarius White to Calan Waver.

The return penalty wasn’t the only time Reeltown was its own worst enemy. White lost a fumble on the Keith 24-yard line late in the half. Dropped passes and missed reads also cost the Rebels big gains in the half.

“We’ve been playing really well lately. We made some bad decisions, but a lot of them had to do with Keith,” Reeltown coach Jackie O’Neal said. “Keith played exceptionally well. My hat’s of to them, we’ve just got to stop being so sloppy.”

Another fumble on the first possession of the second half cost Reeltown a shot inside the red zone.

Michael Young recovered after Ki-Shawn Powell gave the ball up on the 6-yard line.

The Rebels held Keith to a three and out and got some more points out of the deal.

McKenzie scored again from 19 yards out, and White added 2 points for a 22-0 lead with 5:17 in the third.

White kept it himself from 1 yard away for another touchdown with 7:23 to play. He drove the final stake in the Bears’ hearts when he took a 61-yard punt return back for a touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game.

The Bears were shut out for the first time since losing 34-0 to Leroy in the second game of last season.

They need to win one more region game to secure a playoff spot, but there’s not exactly mounting pressure.

Their next two opponents, Francis Marion and R.C. Hatch, came into Friday night with combined 4-8 records.

The Bears have the Bobcats next week for homecoming.

“Nobody’s going to lay down for us,” Crum said. “Hatch believes they can win, and so does Francis Marion so we’re going to have to play.”