It was a tough way for the Cougars’ 20 seniors to end their high school careers after setting a school record for wins by any class of players.
The Cougars were hoping to avenge an earlier 24-6 loss to the Dragons during the regular season in October. Ironically, the score at half-time was identical in both games with the Cougars holding a 6-3 lead.
Grayson County was on the board first after forcing the Dragons to punt on their first two possessions. The Cougars took the ball at their own 31-yard line following the Dragons’ second punt. Ethan Hinson gained a yard on first down with a reception from quarterback Hunter Gary. On second down, the Cougars ran an option to the right side, and Gary pitched the ball at the last moment to sophomore running back Dustin Crain. As soon as Crain got the ball, a huge hole opened up and he was able to take it stright up the sideline 68 yards for a touchdown. Gary missed the extra-point kick, but the Cougars led 6-0 with 3:53 left in the first period.
The Cougar defense was rock solid, forcing the Dragons to punt the ball three more times before Central took over at their own 42. Once again, the Cougars were up to the task and forced the Dragons into a punting situation, but this time the Dragons faked the punt, with running back Cortez Barber taking the snap and gaining eight yards for a first down.
At the end of the play, the Dragons were penalized for a personal foul and the ball was moved back to the Cougar 43.
As time was running out in the first half, the Dragons had moved inside the Cougar red zone, but had to call a timeout with 2.2 seconds remaining and the ball at the 14. Kicker Adel Muskic trotted out and kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the Cougar lead to just three points at the half.
The Cougars had the ball at the start of the third quarter and quickly gained a first down at their own 36. But on the next play, an option pitch went awry. They recovered the ball at the 25-yard line, but they faced a second-and-21. They were unable to convert and gave the ball back to the Dragons at the Cougar 46, and the Dragons quickly moved to their only touchdown.
On the seventh play following the Cougar punt, running back Eric Brown carried in from 12 yards out and Muskic added the extra point to make it 10-6 with 3:35 left in the period.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars forced the Dragons to punt once again from their own 30, and this time Gary got in to block the kick. The ball bounced back toward the goal line, with players from both teams scrambling to get to the ball. It was eventually recovered by the Dragons in the end zone, giving two points to the Cougars and giving them the ball back with 11:01 left to play, trailing 10-8.
Taking over at the 50, the Cougars gained a first down at the 39, but there the drive stalled. On fourth-and-eight at the 37, instead of punting and pinning the Dragons deep, the Cougars elected to try for the first down. Gary was sacked on the next play for a 15-yard loss, and the Dragons took over at the Cougar 48.
The defense was still playing its best and forced another punt. The Cougars took over with 6:35 left needing a score of any kind to keep their season alive. Grayson County moved the ball into Dragon territory with a first down just inside the 45. Ethan Hinson gained nine yards to give the Cougars a second-and-less than one just outside the 35. Two running plays gained nothing and the Cougars once again tried for it on fourth down, but came up short.
The Dragons took possession and tried to run out the last four minutes of play, but they were forced to punt once more with about a minute left on the clock.
The Cougars went into desperation mode, and Gary completed a pass to Jared Tomes for a first down. After Gary was sacked again, the Cougars got the benefit of a pass interference call which gave them a first down at the Dragon 49. But Gary was unable to get a pass off as time ran out and the Cougar season came to an end.