PIKEVILLE – The University of Pikeville football team outgained Bethel 470-304 in total offense, including a 229-65 lead through the air, but it wasn’t enough to make up for two costly fumbled in a 24-21 loss to the Wildcats on Saturday.
UPIKE (2-2, 1-0 MSC East) scored on its first drive, going 96 yards on three plays as Bowen Smith threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Olinger. After a Bethel (3-0, 0-0 MSC West) field goal, the Bears appeared to be heading toward a 14-3 lead, but Austin Pray fumbled a catch near the end zone.
One drive later, the Bears had another chance to add six points when Willie McCloud took off on a 46-yard run, but he too had the ball stripped just before scoring at the 5-yard line.
With the miscues adding up – UPIKE fumbled four times in the game and lost two – Bethel was able to take advantage and keep the game close heading into the second half, trailing just 14-10.
The Bears had running back Jamar Kirksey to thank for the lead as he grinded out a career-best 180 yards on the ground, setting up Smith for another touchdown pass to Jarredd Jarrell early in the second quarter.
But while UPIKE kept itself in the game, including leading 21-17 as late as the 5:06 mark of the fourth quarter, it was hard to shake the thought that they had blown some huge chances. And those missed chances finally caught up to it when Bethel quarterback Kelly Sellers II started going to work with his feet.
With UPIKE defenders struggling to bring him down in the backfield, Sellers II ended up scrambling for touchdowns of 18 and 28 yards, with the latter sealing the 24-21 win with just 2:58 to play. The Bears drove to midfield quickly on their final stanza, but everything stalled there as four straight incomplete passes brought the comeback effort to an end.
After forcing a three-and-out to start the game, UPIKE took over on its own 3-yard line, but was able to use three plays to go 97 yards for the opening score. Kirksey took off on runs of three and 27 yards before Bowen Smith was able to hook up with Jordan Olinger for a 66-yard touchdown pass (7-0).
About three minutes later with nine minutes left in the first quarter, Bethel got on the board with a 45-yard field goal from Casey Kammerzell. It was the result of a 10-play drive that started on BU’s own 44 after a 25-yard kickoff return by Macio Hicks (7-3).
At the start of the second quarter, after a pair of costly UPIKE fumbles, the Wildcats were able to put together a go-ahead drive as Sellers II used one of his few completions to find Quincy Walden in the end zone from 26 yards out (7-10).
Luckily for UPIKE, it was immediately ready to respond as Smith found Jarredd Jarrell on a slant in the end zone for his first career touchdown reception with 10:37 left until halftime. The throw was at the end of a 7-play, 69-yard drive. The Bears were knocking on the door from the three before a false start penalty pushed them back, but Smith wasn’t fazed as he threw for six points on the next play (14-10).
After a scoreless third quarter, the next team to score was Bethel on an 18-yard scramble by Sellers II with 10:55 to play. Sellers II evaded a sack on a 3rd and 4 play from UPIKE’s 18 and found a way to go untouched down the sideline for six (14-17).
Smith had a wild next series for the Bears as he completed a 32-yard pass to Jarrell, but was hurt on the play and taken out of the game. Shannon Patrick took over at quarterback for the next few plays, driving UPIKE to the Bethel 29 yard line with a scramble of his own and four handoffs. Then Smith was able to check back in, ultimately throwing a perfect fade route on the left side of the end zone to Olinger with 5:49 on the clock (21-17).
Sellers II struck again however on the next series as he ran for eight yards, threw an eight-yard completion, then ultimately put the Wildcats up for good with a 28-yard scramble (21-24).
With Smith again being knocked out of the game on the final drive, Patrick moved the ball early, getting the Bears near the 50 yard line on an 11-yard pass to Olinger. But the drive stalled there as Patrick’s next four passes were incomplete, including a near miss to Russell Gordon down the right sideline on fourth down.
Defensively, the Bears were led by Jack Hopkins with 14 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Derek Harris joined him in double figures with a career-high 10 stops, while Bradley Cleveland wasn’t far behind with nine.
“The biggest difference in the ballgame came down to fundamentals, just taking care of the football,” said UPIKE Coach Allan Holland Jr. “We beat ourselves with turnovers on offense and missed a few tackles and were out of line a few times that could have put us in position to make big plays. We just have to get back to our fundamentals of football and get back to work this week.”