The Bobcats of Robert F. Munroe and the Warriors of Aucilla Christian met in their annual slugfest last Friday night, with the Bobcats prevailing 27-20 in a runaway that was almost too close for comfort.
Both teams arrived with sub-.500 records and rosters weakened by injuries. The Warriors had soundly defeated the Bobcats in the prior two meetings and looked to maintain their current dominance in the series that has spanned four decades.
The Bobcats, coming off of a hard-fought 14-8 victory against Peniel Baptist, wanted to reverse the trend with their newfound offensive prowess and restore bragging rights. Bobcat head coach Joe Striplin knew all too well both the pressure and importance of this game, having held the same position at Aucilla for the last three seasons.
“When I was at Aucilla, this was always the game that we circled on the calendar,” said Striplin. “The season seemed to hinge on how we did in this rivalry. I’d have to say that this victory ranks up there with the best I’ve been a part of because of how far our team has come this season. We’ve overcome a lot to get to this point and we feel like we’re ready to ‘turn the page.’ It’s also important because it’s our biggest rival and my former team.”
The game began with both teams cautiously probing the opposition’s defense and trading punts. The Bobcats struck first on a well-designed double pass that saw QB Dustin Watson throw into the flats to WR Dustin Blake, who pulled up and hit fellow receiver Fletcher Vaughn in stride for the game’s first score.
The Bobcats seized the momentum and, by the end of the third quarter, were comfortably ahead 27-6. That’s when lightning struck and the Warriors stretched the Bobcat defense for two quick scores, converting an onside kick in between to halt the rout that seemed in progress. The Bobcats recovered a second onside kick attempt after the last Aucilla score, but were unable to keep possession and punted to the Warriors with less than 3 minutes remaining.
Facing a long field, the Warriors began moving the ball against the Bobcat secondary and were looking as if they were on the way to score and tie or take the lead. One overthrow later and a pick by Fletcher Vaughn, however, returned the ball to the Bobcats, who then ran out the clock to seal the victory.
The Bobcats had many heroes on the night. Daniel Meeks rushed 16 times for 121 yards and scored two TDs. Trey Pack had 11 rushes for 52 yards and one TD and also stood out on defense with two interceptions to go along with eight tackles. Dustin Blake had six receptions for 57 yards and also threw for a TD. Watson was 15 of 29 for 140 yards and had 1 TD pass and no interceptions.
The offensive line, anchored by Hunter Welborn and Chuck Beach, allowed the Bobcat’s rushing attack to be a difference-maker in the second half. Sophomore kicker Drew Cook converted three of four PATs and was consistent with his kickoffs.
“I can’t say enough about the job the players did to get ready for this game and the way they executed,” said Striplin. “We probably had our best week of practice. Our staff was also great in their preparations. I want thank the cheerleaders for their great spirit leadership. We’ve got the best squad around. And the fans that were in attendance were awesome. It made for a very memorable game.”
The Bobcats improved their record to 3-5 and are back in action this Friday at Corry Athletic Field for a second meeting with Peniel Baptist. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.