ATHENS — Despite a season full of explosive plays for the Hearne football team, it was a blocked extra-point kick that saw the Eagles’ historic season unravel Thursday in a 41-38 loss to Beckville in the Class 2A Division I area playoffs at Bruce Field.
After Hearne’s opening score, a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Micah Smith to Jabari Dunn, Beckville’s Jeremiah Steph hurled himself through the Eagle field goal team and blocked Omar Leon’s PAT attempt.
Despite four more touchdowns in the shootout, Hearne (9-1) could never make up the deficit caused by the block, going 1-for-4 on two-point conversion attempts.
“In all three phases of the game we had to play well, and tonight we didn’t and that was a key for them,” Hearne head coach Ricky Sargent said. “We didn’t play well and they did.”
Beckville’s style was far from exotic. Jet sweeps left and right set up read-option plays for quarterback Ryan Harris, who often pulled the ball and ran through the middle of the Eagle defense. Blocking and Harris’ speed made for a rare tough tackling night for an Eagle defensive front that spent a season disrupting offensive lines.
Harris rushed for 216 yards and five touchdowns on 36 carries. He completed just 1 of 3 passes for 11 yards. The Bearcats (9-4) completed their first pass of the game in the third quarter.
“We didn’t tackle well,” Sargent said. “That is one of the things that hurt us. They had a very good game plan early. They came out and did what they do best. They are a running team and [Harris] is a very good football player.”
Hearne also attempted to establish the run in the first quarter with varying results. However, against a defense that sees little passing in practice, it was the air game that spelled success for the Eagle offense.
Smith connected on 12 of 24 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Dunn spent the night pulling down passes over Beckville defenders, finishing with six catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Of Hearne’s total 432 yards, only 42 were gained on the ground, while Smith averaged 16.3 yards per pass attempt.
After trading blows through the first three quarters, the Bearcats held a slim 28-26 lead.
Beckville successfully kept the Eagle offense on the sideline for the majority of the final quarter thanks to a 12-play, 53-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Harris for a nine-point lead. Beckville needed two fourth-down conversions to extend the drive as Harris picked up both with keepers. Overall, the Bearcats converted 5 of 6 fourth downs.
With two minutes left, Smith connected with Dunn for 38 yards to set up a 37-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Langham on fourth down with three seconds left. Smith’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, and Hearne trailed 41-38.
Beckville quickly scooped up the ensuing onside kick attempt, ending Hearne’s season.
The Eagles fell short of claiming their first 10-win season since 1961 but notched their fifth nine-win season over the same time period.
“This team and this season means a lot to me,” Sargent said. “Those guys, I told them to keep their heads up, because what has happened up to this point was outstanding, and we’re so proud of those guys.”
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