By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Southern Eagles came up just short in their bid for the school’s first regional championship Friday, falling to Pulaski County 32-28.
The Eagles built a 22-20 hafltime lead, only to see the Maroons come out and dominate the third quarter, putting two scores on the board, then hanging on at the end for the win.
Southern coach Jon Clark said the third quarter was the killer for the Eagles.
“They were running the ball right at us and we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do up front. We weren’t tackling well and our D-line was taking gaps instead of playing to the guys shoulders and that created seams,” Clark said. “We started making adjustments to cut it down, but it was too little, too late.”
Both offenses struggle with the soupy, mud-covered field, but it seemed to have affected the Southern speed running game the most.
The muddy track and the Maroons defense limited Damien Harris in the first half, but senior Casey Dionne picked up the slack, slicing and dicing for more than 60 yards in the half.
On the night, Harris had 17 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Dionne finished with 15 carries for 129 yards, one touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Trailing 32-22 going into the fourth quarter, Harris finally found some running room.
He broke three or four tackles then sprinted 76 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to get the Eagles to within 32-28.
Southern finally came up with a second half stop of the Maroon offense to give the offense a chance to win the game with just over four minutes remaining.
But after driving to the Pulaski 6-yard line, the Eagles failed on a fourth-and-eight pass and turned the ball over to PC.
“It looked like the play was there, the ball just slipped out of Aaron (Slone’s) hands,” Clark said. “That’s going to happen on a night like tonight. It is what it is.”
Southern had one last chance after holding the Maroons and getting the ball back with 36 seconds remaining, but could not score.
Clark said too many mistakes cost his team dearly.
“That snap over the punter’s head was a killer and we dropped balls several times that would have gotten us first downs,” Clark said. “Little things like that that should be positive yards really hurt you. As the ball got more slippery we were less comfortable. We just didn’t make the plays when we needed them and they did.”
Although disappointed with the outcome, Clark said he was extremely proud of what his team accomplished this year.
“I’m so proud of them, but I wanted so much more for them. They deserve more. But I told them before the game deserving has nothing to do with this, you’ve got to go out and do it,” he said. “How far these guys have come in such a short amount of time is incredible. Everybody told them they couldn’t do it. This is one of the greatest efforts in my life I’ve ever seen of a group of young men coming together and working toward a cause. It’s pretty amazing.”