BRANSON, Mo. — After sputtering much of the first half, Carl Junction mounted a furious second-half comeback.
The Bulldogs, who trailed 21-0 at halftime, scored two touchdowns in the final eight minutes and pulled within one point with 18 seconds left. But the extra point went wide left, and Branson escaped with a 21-20 victory on Friday night at the Pirates’ field.
Running back Brady Sims put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard late in the third quarter with his six-yard run off right guard — he ran over a tackler at the goal line — to make it 21-7. Sims finished with 15 carries for 69 yards.
The Bulldogs (1-2) scored again on quarterback Kyler Perry’s six-yard option keeper, and Xavier Perkins’ PAT made it 21-14 with 7:52 to play.
Branson moved the ball into Carl Junction territory and ran more than five minutes off the clock. But the Bulldog defense stopped the Pirates on third down, and their 42-yard field goal was short to give Carl Junction possession at the 20-yard line with 2:42 remaining.
Perry gained 15 yards on the first play of the drive, and his pass completions of 13 yards to Drew Patterson and 27 yards to Cole Stewart helped move the ball to the Branson 25 with 1:26 left.
A defensive holding penalty advanced the ball to the 15, and Perry’s nine-yard pass to Sims and two-yard keeper produced a first down at the 6-yard line in the final minute.
After two incomplete passes, Perry found Noah Southern on a shallow crossing route for a four-yard touchdown, but the PAT missed.
Perry, inserted at quarterback to start the second half, hit 9-of-20 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown and ran four times for 23 yards and a score. Alex Baker was 9-of-17 for 79 yards in the first half.
Stewart grabbed six passes for 106 yards as seven players caught passes. Patterson and Jordan Woodruff had three catches apiece for 43 and 37 yards, respectively.
The Bulldogs totaled 360 yards — 104 rushing and 360 through the air.
Branson (1-2) scored twice in just over a minute midway through the first quarter on Payton McCormick’s three-yard run and Josiah Hutchinson’s 41-yard interception return.
Cristian Berumen’s one-yard plunge midway through the second quarter gave the Pirates their 21-0 halftime lead.