Two big plays and a series of unfortunate field goal-related events derailed the Durant Cougars’ Friday night home opener.
Riverview left the Ron Frost Athletic Complex with a 13-12 win thanks to a productive second half. The loss gives Durant a 1-1 record in the 2019 season.
Though the rain and the wet field did give Durant some early troubles with ball security, the Cougars dominated the clock in the first quarter by coming up big on third and fourth-down situations — a trend that continued throughout the night — on their opening drive. Durant held the ball from kickoff until there was 3:34 left in the quarter, when Elian Gonzalez scored on a five-yard run and the extra point attempt was blocked, then got the ball back after quickly forcing Riverview to punt and ran out the clock. They were also in control in similar fashion throughout the second quarter, forcing Riverview to punt after the Sharks recovered a lost Cougars fumble, and Collin Cole rounded out the Cougars’ scoring efforts with a six-yard touchdown on a pitch from quarterback Sean Williams. Durant went for two but the goal line fade didn’t work out, giving the home team a 12-0 lead it took into the locker room.
The second half started out well for Durant with Lenny Woods’ interception just minutes into the third quarter, but the tides began to shift the Sharks’ way on the next drive. The Cougars marched all the way to Riverview’s one-yard line but failed to score, as Williams was stuffed while trying to punch through the middle of the defensive line with about 1:58 left in the quarter.
Riverview got on the scoreboard almost immediately when quarterback Stazion Gage completed a lateral to Cheyenne Greaves that Greaves took 99 yards downfield for a touchdown. Though it looked like Gage might have been brought down by contact during the play, the officials did not throw a flag and deem the lateral illegal. The Sharks connected on the point-after attempt to cut Durant’s lead to 12-7.
Durant once again ran out the clock on its next drive and got as far as Riverview’s 25, but could not get into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs at about the Riverview 28 with 10:14 left in the game. The Cougars’ defense quickly forced a punt, but also quickly got back on the field with another lost fumble recovered at their own 42-yard line. The Sharks drove to Durant’s 22-yard line and then hit paydirt again, this time on a trick play: a fake end-around left Jordan Schell uncovered as he ran to the end zone and he caught a 22-yard pass that put Riverview ahead for good. The Sharks attempted a two-point conversion but the Cougars wasted no time shutting that down.
The Cougars then drove from their own 25-yard line to Riverview’s 20-yard line. Facing fourth down and five, Williams threw a pass to Cole but Riverview defenders hit him hard just as the ball got to his hands to force an incompletion and a turnover on downs.
After Durant forced another Riverview punt, the Cougars got the ball back at their own 32 with 1:27 left in the game. Reed caught a pass on third down and ran 28 yards for the conversion, which fired up the home side and put Durant at Riverview’s 13-yard line. Durant ended up losing four yards on a run and throwing two incomplete passes, so kicker Edgar Posadas Jr. faced a 31-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game.
Those final eight seconds on the game clock brought a roller coaster ride of emotions for both sides of the stadium. Posadas did not have to kick from 31 yards out, thanks to a Shark’s unsuccessful attempt to jump the snap count. The Cougars gained five yards from the penalty, giving Posadas a 26-yard try to hit with four seconds left. That kick was blocked straight into his arms and he was brought down well short of the goal line as time expired, but the officials had already thrown a flag against Riverview for encroachment. That led to one last fourth down for Durant and a 21-yard distance to kick from with four seconds left. Riverview once again blocked the kick, this time sending it into the end zone. as the clock struck 0:00.
Durant’s sideline tried to argue the ball went live after the block, which would have given the Cougars six points and the win — Lonel Gappy came up with the ball in the end zone, which caused the home sideline to erupt in celebration for a moment. The officials did not agree, however, and Riverview rushed the field with a win in hand.
In a total role reversal from last week’s action, Friday was not a good night for any of the Plant City-area teams. Plant City went to Tampa Bay Tech and took a 26-14 loss to the Titans. Down the street at King High School, the Lions came from behind after trailing Strawberry Crest at halftime and sent the Chargers back to Dover with a 37-21 loss.