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First victory eludes Central
Central senior Kyle Bader doesn't remember what he thought as the ball sailed toward the uprights.
The Tigers managed to drive 65 yards in 1 minute, 55 seconds to give their kicker a chance at a game-winning field goal.
Bader launched a booming kick from the 34-yard line that had plenty of distance.
"I thought the snap was decent enough," Bader said. "I should have got it."
The kick sailed wide left, allowing Poplar Bluff to hold on for the 21-20 victory Friday at Houck Stadium.
"I dove for the block and we missed it by inches," Poplar Bluff's Zach Ferguson said. "I just looked back on the ground and I saw it miss left. My heart leaped. It was great."
Central senior Cantrell Andrews, who picked up 21 yards on the final drive, said the final two minutes were an emotional roller coaster.
"I thought it was good," Andrews said. "I was standing on the bench looking at it. I saw it then realized it was wide left and everyone broke down. That was a good game."
Bader was lucky to get off a kick. The snap was to the right of the holder, but Central's kicker said he never noticed.
"I saw the ball go to the ground," he said. "I don't watch the holder's hands really."
Bader added that the kick was inside the distance where he feels he can make it.
"I can hit a 50-yard field goal," he said. "I haven't done it in a game. I've done it in practice multiple times."
Central's offense operated with precision during the final drive. Quarterback Andrew Williams hit Zach Boerboom for a pair of passes to get things going. The biggest play came on a reception to Andrews for 8 yards, but the Mules were called for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards to the end of the play.
Williams connected with Boerboom for 7 yards with 2 seconds left to set up the field-goal attempt.
"That was very exciting," Andrews said of the final drive. "We've got a freshman out there. I was telling him, 'Keep your head on straight. We're going to do the best we can.' Everybody held their composure."
The game started on a great note for the Tigers (0-6) when Andrews raced in from 7 yards out late in the first quarter to put his team ahead. On the ensuing kickoff, Poplar Bluff (4-2) junior Greg Coble fumbled, and Central sophomore Keilon Moore scooped it up and scampered untouched into the end zone for another Central score.
"It was the biggest thing we did all year," Moore said. "That got the team motivated to play as hard as we did play. We felt like we had a chance after that."
But the Mules responded in the second quarter with 21 points. Ferguson scored all three touchdowns, including receptions of 13 and 44 yards. He finished the first half with 109 yards rushing and 57 yards receiving.
The second half was a different story. Ferguson was limited to 45 yards rushing, and Central held Poplar Bluff to 82 yards and six first downs after halftime.
"They put a lot of guys in the box," Ferguson said of Central's halftime adjustment. "They figured out what we were doing and they stuck a bunch of guys in the box. They knew how to stop us. They slowed us down."
It was Central's defense that provided the spark for the Tigers' third touchdown. Dante Sales recovered a fumble to give Central the ball at its own 49.
The big play was a halfback pass. Andrews threw up a floater to Boerboom, who went over the defense to haul in the pass at the Poplar Bluff 3. Andrews finished the drive with a 3-yard run around the far right side.
The Tigers committed a costly penalty on the extra-point attempt, as they were whistled for motion. Bader missed the extra point after the ball was moved back 5 yards, making the score 21-20.
"I thought we were going to win coming into this game," Moore said. "I bet people doubted us. That will let them know. We showed them we can play."
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:First Quarter
C -- Cantrell Andrews 7 run (Kyle Bader kick), 2:24
C -- Keilon Moore 22 fumble return (Bader kick), 2:13
PB -- Zach Ferguson 13 pass from Zac McAnulty (Josh Thompson kick), 10:47
PB -- Ferguson 2 run (Thompson kick), 3:52
PB -- Ferguson 44 pass from McAnulty (Thompson kick), 1:25
C -- Andrews 3 run (kick failed), :02
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING -- Poplar Bluff, Zach Ferguson 30-154, Austin Williams 4-17, Pete Bryant 12-34, Kerey Smith 4-6, Zac McAnulty 5-19. Central, Cantrell Andrews 26-76, John Ritter 1-2, Dante Sales 2-8, Brandon Pickens 1-17, Deonte Jenkins 4-13, Ray Woldtvedt 2-2, Andrew Williams 4-6.
PASSING -- Poplar Bluff, Zac McAnulty 2-7-57-0. Central, Andrew Williams 8-15-56-2, Cantrell Andrews 1-1-23-0, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING -- Poplar Bluff, Zach Ferguson 2-57. Central, Drew Gardner 1-1, Dante Sales 2-7, Zach Boerboom 4-51, Cantrell Andrews 2-20.