With as much adversity as Catholic High has faced this season, it’s hard to imagine the Crusaders being dealt any more setbacks.
But Friday night in front of a homecoming crowd and a chance to wrap up the District 1-3A championship, the Crusaders went toe-to-toe with another round of adversity.
This time it came in threes — as in the loss of tailbacks Simeon and Abram Smiley to injury and the loss of quarterback A.J. Yates to injury in the third quarter.
But even with the loss of those three players — who had already combined for 136 rushing yards, two TDs and 41 passing yards — the Crusaders found themselves one two-point conversion away from tying the game in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
After sophomore Jaylen Fortune found the endzone from the 11-yard line on a fourth-and-two conversion, the Crusaders went back to Fortune for the potential game-tying two-point conversion.
This time, the Taylor County defense was there to stack Fortune up at the line of scrimmage to maintain a 28-26 lead. The Bulldogs iced the game with another late touchdown to rally for a 35-26 win.
“We didn’t execute. In the opportunities that we had we didn’t execute offensively,” Catholic High coach Greg Seibert said. “Defensively, they made plays and we did. We had three opportunities at a minimum take the penalty and try to prevent the big play, but we didn’t execute in those situations and that goes to preparation and that’s my fault. Obviously I didn’t do what I was supposed to do to have them prepared to play this week.”
While the end result was certainly not to Catholic’s (2-6, 1-1) liking, the start couldn’t have gone any better for the Crusaders.
The Crusaders got touchdown runs from Simeon Smiley and A.J. Yates in the first half and the defense smothered the Taylor County offense to allow Catholic to go into the half up 13-0.
The second half got off to a bang on the Taylor County side as the Bulldogs came up with a huge play with their backs against their own goal line. On third-and-14 from their own 1-yard line, Josh Mixon dropped back in the end zone and let a bomb fly down the Bulldogs sideline.
Reaves went up for the ball and came down with it over a Catholic High defender, got his footing and ran down the sideline for a 99-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs got the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 13-8. Taylor County grabbed the lead a few minutes later, after a fumble by Abram Smiley was recovered in Catholic High territory.
Mixon went right back to his favorite target and Reaves was there once again, hauling in the ball over two Catholic defenders and getting his feet down in the endzone before falling out of bounds. The two-point conversion failed, but TCHS led 14-13.
The offenses went back-and-forth after that. Catholic took a 20-14 lead on a 58-yard touchdown pass from J.C. Carrell to Colin Acromite and Taylor County came right back with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rayshawn Hamilton to Ken Smith to take a 21-20 lead.
The backbreaker came on Catholic’s next possession, as they were mounting another drive when JC Carrell’s quick screen attempt was deflected and picked off by Tremont Sellers, who returned it 45 yards for the 28-20 lead.