With kickoff time moved up to 3:30 p.m because of an storm front scheduled to move into the area Friday night, the Spring Hill Bears hosted the Woodlawn Bears (Rison, Arkansas) under looming clouds and while coping with a wind that took turns blowing east to west and north to south, affecting kicks and passes.
While it was a Spring Hill (7-3, 4-3 in the conference) home game, those storm clouds seemed in keeping with Woodlawn’s lightning running attack and thundering defenders. The Woodlawn Bears (8-1, 6-1) looked every bit like a team playing for a number two seed in the South Conference in Arkansas’ Eight-Man league.
Spring Hill’s inability to consistently run the football and its persistence in trying left the crowd frustrated. Despite taking the 34-14 loss, Spring Hill remains in the playoffs. But because of this afternoon’s failure to win by at least nine points, Spring Hill, settling for the four seed, must travel nearly four hours next Friday to Brockwell, Arkansas to take on the 4-2 (3-0) Izard County Cougars.
The Bear fight started with Woodlawn bringing a kickoff to its 43. From there, the team ran nothing but run plays for fullback Caleb Martin and a few keepers for quarterback Jaxon Martin and seemed about to score on third and goal from Spring Hill’s three yard line. But on the exchange, Woodlawn fumbled and the ball was fallen on by a Spring Hill defender.
Spring Hill began its first drive with a TJ Tipton run to its own 16 but stalled and had to kick a punt into the wind that landed at its own 30 yard line. The very next play saw Caleb Martin take the handoff and break through for a big run and a Woodlawn touchdown. A conversion attempt failed and the score was 6-0, Woodlawn.
With the wind at their back, Woodlawn kicked a long one that landed in the end zone. From the twenty, Spring Hill fumbled the ball away. From Spring Hill’s 20, Woodlawn’s Jaxon Martin ran for ten. The next first-down play was negated by a hold on Woodlawn, setting them back to first-and-23. On that play Spring Hill pushed Woodlawn back to the Spring Hill 24.
On second-and-23, Jaxon Martin completed a pass to a receiver tackled inside the Spring Hill ten. On the next play a snapped ball hit Jaxon Martin in the left leg, but he managed to corral it and bring it back to the line of scrimmage. On fourth down, Jaxon Martin saw no open receivers and was sacked for a turnover on downs.
Spring Hill, starting from their own ten, only moved three yards on two downs and then, to make matters worse, had quarterback Levin McGuire slung down hard for a sack for a loss. Facing a fourth-and-long, Spring Hill punted, the ball only going as far as their own 35.
Woodlawn ran one play to running back Fisher Hale for no gain, then, on second down, the pitch to Hale bounced off his shoes and was fallen on by Spring Hill. On their drive, TJ Tipton got three yards in two runs. Before the third-and-seven could be run, the first quarter expired and the teams switched sides, Spring Hill’s offense now facing west, the direction the wind was blowing.
But unfortunately for Spring Hill, it would be another three and out. Cade Watson was able to punt the ball 42 yards, pinning Woodlawn at their own 14.
The next play was an 80-yard touchdown run by Caleb Martin who eluded two tacklers once he burst through the line and then shifted into another gear to outrun Spring Hill’s secondary. The conversion was good on a run by Jaxon Martin and now Woodlawn led 14-0.
In its next series, Jayce Moore was substituted in at quarterback, but the drive was another three and out. The punt this time pinned Woodlawn back at its one-yard-line.
On this drive, Woodlawn would get yet another long run for a score, this time from Jaxon Martin, who took the ball 61 yards on a first down play from the Woodlawn 38. The conversion on a run by Corey King made the score 22-0 with 7:55 left in the half.
Spring Hill began its next drive on its own 27, the first down play was an incomplete pass, the second down play was a scramble and a throw out of bounds and the third down play was a pitch to Cade Watson who was immediately tackled. Opting to punt again, Spring Hill’s defense confronted Woodlawn at their 40.
Woodlawn’s drive was dogged by penalties for false start and an offsides and, in eight plays, got to the Spring Hill 43, from which it punted.
Spring Hill’s new drive started at its own 25 and featured a shifty Jayce Moore run for 12. It would go on for 14 plays and end on the Woodlawn 31 on a fourth-down Moore pass that went over receiver Josh Grimmett’s head in the left corner of the end zone.
Woodlawn would get the ball with 14 seconds left in the half at its own 31 and its quarterback would take a knee with Woodlawn up 22-0.
Spring Hill would receive the kickoff to open the third quarter and, on their drive, take the ball from their own 42 to the endzone, with TJ Tipton breaking free on a fourth down and half a yard play for 33 yards. Tipton ran again to score the two-point conversion and Woodlawn still led, but it was 22-8.
Spring Hill then tried an on side kick which ended up caught by a Woodlawn player at the 50. This series ended similarly to the one Spring Hill had just scored on, with Hale scoring on a long run, this one for 42 yards as a quiet Spring Hill crowd looked on in shock, and a few dozen spectators from Woodlawn on the south side of the stadium cheered. The conversion was no good, but Woodlawn was up now by 20.
A Woodlawn kickoff and a Zane Minton return to the Woodlawn 20 was followed by some talk and a push from Woodlawn who was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. A TJ Tipton run on the first play of the series was stopped at the 37. Another flag fell for another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Woodlawn. On the ensuing second and 7, Tipton was hit hard and did not get up for nearly three minutes. When he did and was led to the bench by Coach Greg Smith, the home crowd applauded.
On the next down, a Woodlawn defender body-slammed quarterback Jayce Moore, but was not called for the roughing. The next play saw Moore display his toughness by taking two yards on third and two on a sneak. Moore got hit hard on another keeper on a second and seven, lying on the ground himself for a minute. Levin McGuire returned as quarterback and carried the ball up the middle on third and six for nearly ten yards, but this was negated by a holding call. McGuire would get a lot of the yardage back on a pass to Teyton Barton but not enough as Spring Hill turned it over on downs after a McGuire run to the left did not get the four yards needed for a first.
Woodlawn would proceed to stage its own three and out. Afterwards the punt came to Minton, who ran it gallantly through close coverage by Woodlawn to the Spring Hill 38.
To open the fourth quarter, Spring Hill, again facing into the wind, gave the ball to Teyton Barton for an eight-yard run. Then a pitch to Tipton was run to the 42 for a first down. A Levin McGuire run left to the 31 earned another first down, but the following play resulted in a fumble lost to Woodlawn on that spot.
Woodlawn would go three and out on its next drive, and would punt the ball to the home team’s 15, only to see it returned by Spring Hill to its own 45. As thunder rolled from the west, Spring Hill would complete a pass to Grimmett for five yards, throw an incomplete pass intended for Tipton and hand off to Teyton Barton for five yards. On the fourth and one, the ball was pitched to a back who was immediately confronted by Woodlawn linemen and linebackers and was not able to throw or advance the ball.
Woodlawn started on its 37. On a third and six, Jaxon Martin fumbled because of a strip by Spring Hill’s Tucker Runion and Carson Moore would claim the ball for Spring Hill. There was 5:37 left to play and the score remained 28-8.
Spring Hill’s drive was another three and out with Levin McGuire driven back and knocked violently into the dirt by a Woodlawn defender on a fourth and five. But there was no call for roughing and Woodlawn had possession with 3:13 left.
In six plays, many of them pass attempts which angered many in the Spring Hill bleachers, Woodlawn scored again, to lead 34-8. The conversion attempt was stopped.
An onside kickoff was tried again, with Spring Hill catching the ball. On the first and ten play TJ Tipton broke through for another long run and touchdown to make it 34-14. With Spring Hill’s on side kick going to Woodlawn with 1:48 to go, Woodlawn was able to end the game by taking a knee on each down without giving up possession.
Asked what it looked like from his point of view, Spring Hill Coach Greg Smith said his team was affected by the circumstances of the game. “Lots of adversity,” he said. “Time, kickoff, just so many things that were weird and strange. This wind. We just didn’t play real good, honestly, and I’ll take that on me. We just weren’t ready to play.”
Smith said the team did keep fighting to win until the game’s conclusion and that tonight’s contest was in a season that was now over. “Now it’s time for playoff season. We’ll see what we’re going to do.”