Hornets drop game to Calera on last second FG

Published 12:39 am Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dallas County’s Calvin Starks gets tackled near the goal line during Friday night’s 25-22 loss to Calera.  Starks and the Hornets led by seven late, but the Eagles scored 10 points in the final minutes to stun Dallas County. --Daniel Evans

Dallas County’s Calvin Starks gets tackled near the goal line during Friday night’s 25-22 loss to Calera. Starks and the Hornets led by seven late, but the Eagles scored 10 points in the final minutes to stun Dallas County. –Daniel Evans

PLANTERSVILLE — Dallas County head coach Marty Smith said for the first time in his three years at the school, the Hornets played four quarters of good football against a quality opponent. Somehow that still wasn’t enough Friday night against Calera.

Calera rallied for 10 points in the final four minutes, including Zachary Ford’s 40-yard field goal as time expired as the Eagles stunned Dallas County 25-22 in Plantersville.

“Sometimes it’s got to hurt for us to figure out how to win,” Smith said. “We’ve gone two weeks in a row where we’ve gotten better as a football program even though we are 0-2.”

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The Hornets seemed poised for one of their biggest wins under Smith — a victory against a Calera team that finished second in the region last year. The game changed when Calera fumbled on back-to-back offensive plays in the third quarter.

Dallas County’s Quincy Parker ran the first fumble back 40 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 15-15. The second Eagles’ fumble was returned to the Calera 4-yard line. Calvin Starks needed only two carries from there to get the ball into the end zone, giving the Hornets a 22-15 lead with 2:08 left in the third quarter.

At that point, the game shifted back to what it had been the entire night — a defensive battle between two teams that struggled to consistently move the ball. The Hornets were backed up early in the fourth quarter and had to punt.

Calera marched the ball to the Dallas County 2-yard line after a 12-yard rush by Jalen Dozier, but the Eagles fumbled the snap on a second-and-goal and Dallas County recovered.

The Hornets gained only five yards on the next three plays, setting up a fourth-and-5 from their own 12-yard-line. Smith gambled, calling a fake punt that Calera stuffed for a 3-yard loss.

He said he saw some things on film that he thought he could take advantage of with a fake.

“Our defense was tired. We felt like we could take advantage of it. We felt like we were deep in our territory, and they weren’t ready for it,” Smith said. “We gambled, and that’s what a fake it. A fake is a gamble, but I believed in our defense. I believed our defense would stop them, but I also believed in our offense that we would be able to march the ball down and score.”

Following the failed fake, the Eagles started the next drive at the Dallas County 9-yard line. The Hornets managed to hold them to a fourth-and-goal at the 1. On fourth down, DeCorean Mickens jumped over the goal line to pull Calera within one. An extra point by Ford tied the game.

Dallas County’s Kedrick Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Calera 44-yard-line, but the Hornets couldn’t do anything with the good field position.

The Hornets punted after a three-and-out, giving Calera the ball with exactly two minutes to play, although a scoreboard malfunction had many in the crowd were confused about what the score was and how much time was remaining.

On the third play of the game, all power went out in the press box, meaning the scoreboard and microphone didn’t work all game.

Coaches had to ask referees for the time throughout the game and on Calera’s final drive, the clock was a major focus.

The Eagles managed to reach the Dallas County 32 with two seconds to play. Ford’s first field goal attempt was short, but Dallas County was called for running into the kicker.

His second field goal was good, denying the Hornets what would’ve been a big region win.

“First things first is we finally played four quarters as a football team against a quality opponent and good things happened,” Smith said. “We just came up a little short tonight. That’s the thing we have to continue to build off of and if we continue to build off that we’ll be OK.”

Calera scored the first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trezmen Harris. Dallas County answered with its best offensive drive of the game.

Starks ran for 20 yards around right end to put the Hornets at the 1-yard line. Hunter Skinner dove in from there to pull Dallas County within two.

A fake extra point allowed the Hornets to tie the game at 8-8 with about ten minutes left in the second quarter. Calera answered with a four play, 37-yard drive.

Mickens capped that drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown, giving Calera a 15-8 lead.

“There were some ups and downs on both sides of the ball,” Smith said. “Both teams faced adversity and both teams played to a very quality level and they didn’t let adversity set in.”

Calera outgained Dallas County 293 to 122 in the game.

The Eagles will host Central Tuscaloosa next week, while the Hornets will play Selma (0-2) at Memorial Stadium.