By Robert Clark
Despite leading the game with under five minutes remaining, late game turnovers cost the Pirates a victory against Paintsville Friday on Senior Night, 20-14.
Berea Community was without senior Hunter Wilson and went into the game knowing that a strong defensive performance was needed to counter the loss of a big contributor on both sides of the ball.
The Pirates opened the game forcing two consecutive three-and-outs but then turned the ball over on two fumbled kick returns — the second of which put the Tigers first points on the scoreboard with a safety.
Despite the special teams mishaps, the Pirates defense created a turnover only to give the ball up on the team’s next play from scrimmage.
That mistakes led to a seven-yard touchdown for the Tigers.
“We have the ability to create turnovers but at times we find ourselves giving the ball right back up in key situations.” Berea coach Adam Coleman said.
The Pirates’ offense, which had been on the sidelines for most of the first half, went three-and-out and was forced to punt the ball in only its second series of the game giving the Tigers excellent field position.
This time the defense capitalized on a turnover as Zach Cunningham intercepted a pass and returned it 57 yards for the Pirates first score.
The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, leaving Paintsville in front, 8-6.
The Pirates held the Tigers on a late red zone attempt and went into halftime trailing by just two points.
“Our defense stepped up. “We played physical disciplined defense but we had to get our offense the ball.” Coleman said.
The Pirates only had three possessions in the first half of play. They scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, only to have that score called back by a penalty.
Berea later came up short on a fourth-down attempt.
The defense responded, however, forcing the Tigers on a three-and-out where the Tigers snapped the ball out of the back of the end zone resulting in a safety.
That tied the game at 8-8.
The Pirates got the ball back and took advantage, getting an 11-yard touchdown run by Zach Cunningham that put them in front, 14-6.
The Pirates defense continued to stand strong as Eli Woodie came up with interceptions on back-to-back possessions
“We were really getting after the ball. Our secondary coverage was excellent,” Coleman said.
Berea gave the ball up two more times in the next few minute — and the second one led to the game’s tying score.
With a little over a minute to play, the Pirates took possession. They looked to catch the Tigers secondary off guard and threw an interception that would eventually lead to the Tigers capitalizing on the mistake.
Paintsville scored on a 21 yard bubble screen to conclude the game.
“They capitalized on the play, we lost a lot of momentum on our last possession,” Coleman said.
The Pirates finishes the regular season 2-8 (0-3 in district) and will travel to face last season’s Class A state champion Hazard next Friday.
Game time is set for 7:30.