District play opened for the Bartow Yellow Jackets last night as the 3-2 squad traveled to arch rival Kathleen. While Bartow was involved in their first district game, Kathleen had already absorbed a loss in district play, falling to Winter Haven. Kathleen has a history of besting Bartow since a Jacket victory over the Red Devils hasn’t happened since 2002.
Lightning in the area delayed the start of Friday’s game until 8 p.m. Bartow would be without the services of Vontarius West, who suffered a mild concussion in last week’s game. Bartow would face the Kathleen defense on the first possession with a light rain falling.
Bartow got few positive yards on their opening drive, more than offset by back to-back false starts. Alex Montes hustled his punt under heavy rush to put Kathleen in good field position. Kathleen managed one first down, but a bad snap forced the quarterback to scramble and threw up a poor pass. Rashon Donegall camped under it for the interception. The Jackets took over on the 36, but lost yards on a backwards pass. A running play was a positive gain, but not as positive as the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the ball to a fourth and one. The run had enough, but the Devils were called for a face mask as well. The drive stalled at the 30 and Montes lined up for a 47 yarder as the rain picked up. It was a fake as Eric Rookard took off, but couldn’t advance.
Penalties started to hurt the Jackets. Kathleen went to the air because Bartow’s defensive line was clogging the middle. A Jacket pass interference call was followed by a flag for a blow to the head. Kathleen held possession as the first quarter ended.
Two plays into the second quarter, Kathleen turned it over on downs. On the first play, Bartow fumbled on a sweep and Kathleen recovered at the 19. Bartow nearly intercepted the third down pass, but fourth and long meant a 39 yard field goal attempt that barely cleared the crossbar. Kathleen led 3-0 with 9:10 to play in the half.
Bartow could not put anything together on the drive and punted the ball away. Kathleen went back to the ground and started gaining big chunks. The drive stalled and Bartow took over with a little more than 3 minutes remaining.
The officials did not like what they saw after a third down run and called Bartow for unsportsmanlike conduct. Dimitri Leverett’s pass was nearly intercepted. Montes punted from his end zone, but the kick was blocked and Kathleen fell on it in the end zone. The extra point made it 10-0 Red Devils with 2:19 in the half.
The clock was working against Bartow, which responded by going to the air with Leverett connecting with Graham and then Jeramy Williams. With less than a minute to play in the half, Bartow was moving.
A long pass found Williams at the goal line for the 27 yard score. The pass completed an 80-yard scoring drive. Montes added the extra point to make it a 10-7 game.
Kathleen wasted no time nullifying the score. Rovonta Johnson rambled 68 yards on a draw play to find pay dirt. The kick made it 17-7 with just 32 seconds to go. Bartow ran out the clock to prepare foe the second half.
Kathleen took the second half kickoff and managed to keep it for eight plays before a rare punt was called. The kick scooted along the ground to Eric Rookard, doing the return duties in the absence of West, who advanced it to the 24. The first Jacket play brought no gain, but the news was worse on the next play. Leverett’s pass was a little high but tipped by the receiver into the hands of a defensive back. Kathleen’s Javon Harrison ran untouched to add to the Red Devil lead. The point after was true and the score stood 24-7 early in the second half.
Bartow could only manage one first down before calling on Montes for another punt. Kathleen couldn’t do much better as they were forced to kick. Bartow was aided by an unsportsmanlike penalty, but Montes returned to punt. He dropped the snap and managed to get the kick away for zero net yards. Kathleen would get it just 24 yards from the end zone. As time was winding down in the third quarter, Kathleen took a time out to talk over a third and long play. That play turned out to be a quarterback keeper that put the ball at the six yard line as time ran out in the period.
The final stanza would start with the home team knocking on the door at the south end zone. It took two plays for Kathleen to score their second offensive touchdown, a run off right tackle from four yards out. The extra point spread the Jacket deficit to the short end of a 31-7 score with 11:24 to go.
There were no positive yards in the Bartow drive, so a punt became necessary as time was slipping away. Kathleen didn’t want to take chances, opting to keep the ball on the ground and the clock moving. After a holding penalty, the strategy changed and Kathleen went to the air, which proved to be a bad decision. Denegall got position on the receiver and came down with the pick in the end zone, giving Bartow new life. It was his second interception of the game.
Deviled by a false start on the first play and a near interception on the third down pass, another punt was on the Bartow agenda. Kathleen got good field position at the 41 with 6:22 to go in the game. Kathleen went onto the bench to give some of their reserve players a little game experience. The Bartow defense stayed poised to stop the opponent for a quick three and out. During the punt, the Bartow receiver apparently touched the ball, which was recovered at the five by Kathleen. Replacement players looked to pick up where the starters left off, but couldn’t seal the deal, pinning Bartow deep in their own territory with little time left. A series of running plays moved. The ball downfield 20 yards, but time expired.
Bartow evened up the season record at 3-3, but slipped to 0-1 in the district play. The Jackets will take a week off before hosting Lake Gibson in another district matchup on Oct. 12, which is also homecoming week.