Waynesboro, GA -- Close but no cigar.
The Richmond Hill Wildcats took the trip to Waynesboro to face the Burke County Bears in a non-region competition.
Friday’s contest was competitive with back-and-forth scores before ultimately ending with the Wildcats faltering to the Bears 27-26.
The Bears received the ball first and wore down the Wildcat defense with their rushing attack and managing the clock.
They would score the first points of the game when they reached the goal line and Marshall Flowers handed the ball off to Charlie Dorsey where he fell into the endzone to take a 7-0 lead after an eight-minute drive.
On their first drive, the Wildcats went through running back Ryan Dekle to get down the field.
The senior would break a 21-yard run to the 45-yard line, crossing the Bears’ territory.
On a critical third and fourth down, quarterback Ty Goldrickwould look to his No. 1 target Ravon Grant on both plays that would go for completions and ultimately keep their drive alive.
Then Goldrick switched it up, dishing the pigskin to Hayden McCullough for an 18-yard touchdown before missing the PAT with 1:20 remaining in the first.
Friday served as Goldrick’s first game this season after he missed out on the Beaufort game due to being quarantined.
He completed 14/20 of his passes for 207 yards, two touchdowns, and two INT’s.
The score would stay the same going to the next period.
The second quarter was a stalemate for the most part.
When the Wildcats put a drive together to get to the redzone, it was halted by Bears’ linebacker Jeremiah Whitfield.
But the Bears did not take advantage of the forced turnover.
They still would strike first in the second though.
Eldrick Williams split the seam up the middle of the Wildcats defense and left them as he took it all the way for a 60-yard touchdown rush to extend the Bears’ lead to 14-6.
Grant would come through for the Wildcats once again.
On the ensuing kickoff the receiver would field the kick at the 25-yard line and take off down the Wildcat sideline to give them some momentum as they trailed 14-13 heading into the locker room.
“Any time a team kicks to us, we have an opportunity,” Wildcats head coach Matt LeZotte said. “We spend an extremely large amount of time preparing for special teams and we executed really well. Ravon’s a big-time playmaker and is going to have a heck of a season. This just a little preview of what’s to come with that guy and I’m super excited to play some more games with him.”
Grant also had six receptions for 41 receiving yards.
After halftime, it would take nearly 10 minutes for either team to score.
Nabbing a big gain after Goldrick found Nick Bliss for a 33-yard gain to cross into Bears’ territory, the Wildcats would be in striking distance.
Reaching the two-yard line, Zion Gilliard got a direct snap for a 2-yard score to take the Wildcats first lead of the game at 20-14 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcat defense held the Bears inside their own 10-yard line, forcing them to punt before the half.
But the Wildcats offense did not capitalize off the stop and punted the ball back to the Bears.
When the Bears got possession, it did not take long for them to score when Flowers called his own number and taking off for a 35-yard scramble to the endzone.
The Wildcats came back with a rapid-fire score.
Goldrick rolled out and found Bliss near the Bears’ sideline before the sophomore receiver took off for a 73-yard touchdown score to get the lead once again at 26-21 with 9:47 left in the game.
“Nick’s a playmaker and he’s cool as the other side of the pillow,” LeZotte said about his receiver. “He shows up everyday and works really hard and is extremely coachable. And it shows. He was in the right spot when he was supposed to be there and Ty made a great read and got him the ball.”
Bliss ended the game with five catches for 138 yards.
The Bears would get the last laugh, though.
They took the lead once and for all, driving down to the endzone before giving the ball to running back A’merre Williams who burst to the left for a 9-yard touchdown with 6:14.
The Wildcats’ final hope at scoring came with 1:35 left in the game, trailing the Bears by one point.
On the first play, Goldrick was sacked.
But he recovered on the next play, getting the ball to McCullough near the sideline for a first down and a stopped clock.
The Bears decided to kill the Wildcats hope.
Goldrick dropped back on the next play and attempted to go deep and was picked off by Jaedon Middleton, securing the win and an all-time 7-0 record for Burke County football over Richmond Hill.
“It was an extremely physical game,” LeZotte said. “If we’re going to play competitive football and deep into the season, we got to be physical. We played against a team that outmatched us physically. We got to get a lot better. We’re going to grow from it and change our mentality and approach. We were in it to the end. If you can’t get a first down on 3rd and less than on two downs, you don’t deserve to win.”
The Wildcats are now 0-2 in the 2021 season and have an open week coming up.