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Latest try by Cougars at bowl win a success

Latest try by Cougars at bowl win a success
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Relegated to runnerup Rebel Bowl finishes to South Fulton the past two seasons, Hillcrest finally broke through with a thrilling 24-22 victory over Ridgemont in the Obion County School System championship game Thursday night in Troy.
The win marked the fourth time in the 16-year history of the Rebel Bowl that the Cougars have claimed the title — doing so after losses to SF 50-0 and 36-14 the past two years.
Hillcrest (5-2-1) scored all its points in the fourth quarter, taking its only lead of the night when Cain Aaron — playing quarterback only because of a broken wrist suffered by starter Jonathan Dobson in the regular season finale — scored on a two-yard sneak with 34 seconds to play.
“These eighth graders were in the sixth grade on that team that lost 50-0 and we saw then what we needed to do to win at this level,” said Cougar coach Justin Truett, who was also at the Hillcrest helm the past two seasons. “We used that as motivation and showed a lot of heart by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter.
“But more than that, we’re just pleased to beat a good football team the caliber of Ridgemont. There was a lot of passion out there on both sides of the ball, and I think it bodes well for the entire county for what lies ahead on the high school level.”
Ridgemont, (4-3-1) which was without its leading rusher and tackler (Roberto Vasquez) due to a knee injury suffered in the Mustangs’ final regular season game, gamely battled anyway and actually led 22-12 with 6:20 to play after the second of Alberto Vasquez’s two TDs — a 54-yard sprint.
But Hillcrest cut into that deficit two minutes later when Aaron and Austin Harris hooked up for the second time on a pitch-and-catch touchdown play covering six yards, then positioned themselves for the game-deciding score when Dobson recovered an ensuing onside kick.
“I’m so proud of my kids. They’ve improved more than any team I’ve ever had from Day 1 until the end of the season,” veteran Mustang skipper Lance Gray claimed.
“We had so many first-year players, and I thought that showed with some of the mistakes we made in the last few minutes. We gave a great effort though, and lost to a very-good football team on the other side.”
The two clubs that had their regular season meeting called due to darkness in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 26 were again evenly-paired in Thursday’s rematch.
Just six yards separated the teams (179-173) in total yardage.
Dobson, playing with a heavy cast, was still a critical factor for the winners with a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a game-high 71 rushing yards after being moved to running back from QB. He was honored as Hillcrest’s Offensive MVP.
Aaron, moved from his signal caller spot last year to the team’s No. 1 receiving option this season, completed 5-of-11 passes for 71 yards, including touchdown tosses of 15 and six yards to Harris. Harris caught three balls for 30 yards in all, and had four tackles and one of two Cougar interceptions to earn the victors’ Defensive MVP Award.
R’mont took a 6-0 halftime lead on the final play of the second quarter when Alberto Vasquez caught a six-yard scoring pass from Nathan King. A 22-yard strike from King to Heath Cary with 12 seconds remaining set up the score.
The Mustangs also got a short TD plunge and a pair of two-point conversions from hulking lineman Emanuel Morgan, a seventh-grader who reportedly is 6-3, 250 pounds.
Vasquez was honored as the Ridgemont’s most valuable offensive player, and Morgan garnered the defensive award.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 10.14.11

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