GILBERT — It was a great night for the Lenore Middle School football team on Thursday.
The Rangers scored a mild upset of sorts, got revenge on the Gilbert Lions and advanced to next week’s Mingo County championship game after beating the homestanding Gilbert Middle School football team, 8-6.
Lenore (5-3), which came into the game as the No. 3 seed, had lost to the same Gilbert team on the same Gilbert football field back on Sept. 2 in the season opener in a 20-19 heartbreaker.
It that one, the Lions drove nearly 70 yards in less than two minutes and won the game on a touchdown run on the final play of the game to top the Rangers.
This time it would be different as Lenore held on to win in the defensive struggle. The victory advances the Rangers to play at Mingo Central High School’s Buck Harless Stadium against either Burch or Matewan in the county title game, tentatively set for this coming Thursday night.
Burch (6-1), the No. 1 seed, routed Lenore 50-8 earlier in the season at Delbarton. The Bulldogs, undefeated in county play, were heavily favored to beat No. 4 seed Matewan. The two teams met just last week with Burch winning 48-0.
Gilbert, the No. 2 seed, saw its season come to an end at 5-3. The Lions were routed last week by Sandy River, 46-20. Lenore was also coming off a loss in a 36-0 homecoming setback to Madison.
The Rangers played without starting quarterback Joby Sorrell in Thursday night’s game. Sorrell, who has thrown for many touchdown passes this fall, reportedly sustained a concussion in the Madison game and had to sit out.
Sorrell was replaced under center by Easton Davis.
Davis tied the game 6-6 with 38.5 ticks left until halftime after he rolled out to his left against the grain and tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Sorrell’s favorite target this season, Caleb May.
Rangers’ workhorse fullback Parker Brewer then bulldozed his way into the end zone on the two-point conversion, giving Lenore an 8-6 advantage at halftime.
It proved to be the game-winner as Lenore’s defense held in the second half and the Rangers held on to victory.
Gilbert took a 6-0 lead at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter with Westan Christian’s 2-yard TD run. The two-point conversion failed.
Down just two points in the third quarter, Gilbert looked to get some drives going.
The Lions, however, were stymied by Lenore’s tough defense as defensive tackle Caleb Hodge had two tackles for loss and Corey Pack, another defensive lineman, also had a stop for minimal gain as the Lions couldn’t get its rushing atttack back on track.
Later in the third quarter, Gilbert made it to the Lenore 28-yard line but faced a fourth-and-11 and Lions’ QB Austin Dingess had his pass broken up by Davis, turning the ball over on downs.
Lenore got it back but had to punt. A 43-yard kick by Brewer took the Lions all the way back to its own 28.
In the fourth quarter, the Lions could not move the ball.
Gilbert went for it on a fourth-and-21 on its own 23 and Dingess was intercepted by May at the 37.
The Rangers got the ball with 3:03 to go in the game, up two points and with the ball in Gilbert territory. The drive stalled, however, as Brewer was stopped for a 1-yard gain on a fourth-and-four play at the Gilbert 29.
That left the Lions with only 1:03 left in the game and the ball on their own 29.
The Lions could only move the ball a few yards and a deep fourth-down pass fell incomplete as the clock read all zeros and the Lenore players and fans erupted.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).