BRUCE- The North Pontotoc Vikings fell behind just a little over midway through the first quarter Friday at Bruce, but they allowed only six points the rest of the contest, including a second half shutout, and they gradually took control in a 30-13 season-opening win over the Trojans.
"I am thankful to get to work with such a great group of kids," said North Pontotoc coach Andy Crotwell. "They work hard and do everything we ask them to do. We knew it was going to be a struggle. We've lost 10 to quarantine. We will get them back on Tuesday, but we knew we were missing either starters or key backups, and those are critical at this point in the season. I am thankful to get the win."
The game was mistake-filled early on. Bruce just crossed into North territory before a fumble was recovered by North's Hunter Miles. Two plays later a North fumble landed right in the hands of a Bruce defender, who was stopped just shy of the goal line after a lengthy return. The Trojans immediately took advantage, as Bryce Armstrong scored on a 5-yard TD run. After a successful extra point Bruce led 7-0 with 5:35 to play in the opening quarter.
North responded with a productive drive on offense. The Vikings converted three key third downs on rushes from Raquan Booth. Booth ran for 15 yards on 3rd and 2 to move the Bruce 39. Booth ripped off another 6-yard first down run on 3rd and 5, and he gained 7 yards on a 3rd and 5 from the 18. A couple of Bruce penalties put North near the endzone, and Booth capped off the march with a 1-yard touchdown that pulled the Vikings to within 7-6 at the 2:47 mark of the 1st.
Winn Navarrete recovered a fumble for the Vikings on the next drive, but North was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt.
Most of the second quarter belonged to North. After getting a stop on defense, an 18-yard pass from quarterback Reese Kentner to Kaden Wilson, followed by an 11-yard run by Blake McGloflin, moved the ball into the red zone. A couple of negative plays and a penalty led to a 4th down and 13, but the Vikings converted in a big way, as Kentner found Tyler Ford open for a 24-yard touchdown. Gavin Dyer knocked through the extra point, and the Vikings led 13-7 with 7:08 to play in the half.
Bruce turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, and Kentner found a streaking Kaden Wilson for a 41-yard touchdown at the 4:09 mark. Dyer's point-after made it 20-7. Bruce, however, would climb back in the game, scoring on a 32-yard TD catch by Jay Collins with only 35 seconds left in the half to pull within 20-13.
The third quarter was scoreless. A promising North drive to open the half came up empty despite reaching the Bruce 10. Late in the period a long Bruce drive was snuffed out inside the red zone, when Brian Heredia picked up big sack on 4th down. The Vikings seized on that momentum to start the fourth quarter. After an 18-yard catch by McGloflin, Booth broke free for a 25-yard score that made it 27-13 with 11:36 to play. Dyer added the final points with a 22-yard field goal at the 5:35 mark, while the North defense did not allow Bruce past midfield in the final quarter.
"We've got a long way to go," coach Crotwell said. "We are still making some simple mistakes at some positions, but you expect that at the start of the season."
The Vikings travel to South Pontotoc in the annual battle for the Horton Trophy on Friday.