HINTON - The history books were opened Saturday afternoon at Garten Stadium when the Summers County Bobcats hosted their first ever football playoff game. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, it wasn't the storybook ending they were hoping for.
The no. 5 ranked Bobcats were eliminated at home 24-14 by the upset minded Ritchie County Rebels.
The Rebels took advantage of five Summers County turnovers, rolling out 443 yards of total offense, mostly on the back of quarterback Alex Lipscomb, to add a signature win and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"I don't know if we're flying under the radar or over the radar," Ritchie County coach Mike Dawson said. "We're just happy to still be flying."
Lipscomb, one of Class AA's leading passers, threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns and picked up another 131 yards on the ground in the victory.
"I've got to give it up to Ritchie County," Summers County coach Nate Tanner said. "They're a tough team."
Summers County was the first on the board early in the first quarter, when sophomore quarterback Matt Ryan broke a 31 yard run for a touchdown. The lead would be short lived as just a few moments later, Ritchie County would begin their run, scoring two touchdowns, one on a Austin
Garrett run and another on a 10 yard pass from Lipscomb to Seth Cottrill.
But perhaps the biggest play of the game came with under 10 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter.
The Rebels had driven 36 yards down the field and were preparing to score another touchdown to go into the half, but Lipscomb fumbled the ball on the 1 yard line and it was recovered by Summers County, switching momentum in the favor of the home team.
However, on the very next play, Summers County fullback JaQuan Ayers fumbled the ball and a Ritchie County defender recovered. That allowed Ritchie County's Orlando Burgy to setup and convert a 22-yard field goal to go into the half with a 10-point lead and the ball at the start of the second half.
"It was just three points, but I think emotionally it just kind of stuck a dagger in our kids to an extent," Tanner said. "They got the ball back, hit the field goal and put more points on the board. We made a stop on the goal line. I think that would have been a really good thing going into the half. But we coughed it up. It's like the emotions just went from one end to the next."
Dawson knew that having a kicker capable of making the field goal would be an advantage for his team.
"That boy's been kicking for a long time," Dawson said. "It's big. You come away with points right there. Those points add up. He's played well all year and he's just a sophomore. We expect to have him for a while."
The momentum definitely tilted in favor of the Rebels, as the Bobcats were unable to really get much going, ending three of their final four possessions with turnovers, with the lone positive drive being a 70-yard touchdown run by senior running back Isaiah Brown.
"I feel like going into the game we were prepared," Tanner said. "We just didn't play the way we're capable of. We had too many turnovers. Whenever you have that stuff, it's hard to get into a rhythm. You can't do that against a good team. It's hard to win."
The Bobcats turned the ball over 6 times in the contest, five of which came on interceptions, but not necessarily due to the play of Ryan.
"Those interceptions weren't his fault," Tanner said. "There at the end, we were getting more and more down and not running our routes like we should have. I mean that just comes with being a quarterback. You're going to have days like that. You've just got to learn from your mistakes."
The playoff experience for Ryan will likely benefit the Bobcats moving forward next year, their first without a core group of players who have been the heart and soul of Bobcat nation.
"Matt's a good player and a really good kid," Tanner said. "After the game I told the team that the seniors have really paid the price to where they've gotten. They're the reason we've gotten that far."
Tanner completes his first season as head coach with a 9-2 record and hopes the momentum will continue to build in 2014.
"I'm extremely blessed to go 9 and 2. I'm happy but at the moment I wanted to go deeper in the playoffs," he said. "This is the first time this has ever happened here and I think everybody will be more excited about football."
Ritchie County will move on to play Robert C. Byrd in the second round.
"Summers County should be really proud," Dawson said.