The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

September 8, 2012

Joplin stuck with bad taste after falling to Hillcrest

There was plenty to digest for the Joplin Eagles on Friday night at Junge Field

A dreadful start, a comeback, some literally confusing calls by the officiating crew, no power to the scoreboard, missed opportunities down the stretch.

But the end result still stands.

Hillcrest 33, Joplin 21.

That sour taste the Eagles had in their mouths after letting one slip away a week ago just got a lot more bitter and a lot more tart.

“Every loss is tough, but this one is hard to swallow because, just like last week, we killed ourselves,” Joplin senior linebacker Lane Freeborn said. “People will talk about the refs, but like coach said, good teams don’t allow the referees to be a factor in the game and we allowed it.

“This stings because we killed ourselves again.”

We’ll start in the fourth quarter, becuase that’s when things really got interesting.

Joplin (1-2, 1-2 Ozark Conference) — which trailed 21-0 in the first half — has just scored on a Chris Payton-Barba’s 1-yard run to pull withing 27-21 with 8:17 remaining.

The Eagles force Hillcrest (3-0, 3-0) into a 3rd-and-long at the Hornet 25 and Hillcrest quarterback Micah Liming — in for the injured Jonah Hill — hits Matt Rush in the flat.

Rush catches and turns up field, but has the ball knocked loose before he is taken down. The ball bounces backward and is recovered by Joplin at the Hillcrest 15.

But wait.

The play is wiped away because of an inadvertant whistle — blown during the fumble — and Hillcrest is given another 3rd down, which the Hornets cash in on when Joplin is whistled for a personal foul on a ball thrown well out of bounds.

Instead of a Joplin 1st down at the 15, Hillcrest was at the 39.

“My argument was, that’s just a bad call. That’s not an inadvertent whistle,” Shields said. “Inadvertent is when you blow the whistle on accident. He just made a bad call and called him down when he wasn’t. He meant to blow the whistle.”

Joplin ended up getting the ball back two more times but couldn’t take the lead.

After trading three-and-outs Joplin marched into Hillcrest territory, but quarterback Gabe Sachetta’s 4th-and-2 pass from the 28 with about two minutes left fell incomplete.

Hillcrest iced the win when Sheldon Moeller, trying to run time off the non-functioning clock, broke free for a 48-yard score.

“Right now we’re not executing in crunch situations,” Shields said. “We have to have some guys step up when the game is on the line and make a play. Right now we don’t have that.”

Joplin got 196 yards passing from Sachetta, but struggled to establish a running game. Payton-Barba led the Eagles with just 32 yards on 12 carries.

Hillcrest, meanwhile, racked up 404 yards of offense, including 267 yards on 49 rushes — 116 of those yards coming on Juwan Johnson’s 13 carries, incuding a 69-yard score on an option pitch that sparked the Hornets’ 21-0 start.

Joplin made it 21-14 at the half — Gavin Jones hauled in a 24-yard touchdown from Sachetta before a fumbled snap on a Hillcrest punt set up Sachetta’s 1-yard score — but couldn’t find the big play to take the lead.

“Like my dad just got done saying, we left a lot of guys on base,” Sachetta said. “We put ourself in a good position late and just couldn’t finish, like last week. It’s a bummer and it stinks to do it on your home field, but we have to come out next week and execute.”

The Eagles were hurt by a pair of third-quarter fumbles and a key pass interference penatly on 4th-and-goal early in the fourth quarter that kept Hillcrest’s drive alive and set up Moeller’s 8-yard run that made it 27-14.

“We realize how good we can be if we fix our mistakes,” Freeborn said. “We know 1-2 is not the goal. We have plenty of games left. We have to keep our heads up and keep driving. Keep pushing.”

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