It was a perfect night Friday for homecoming at Bartow Memorial Stadium and while the Yellow Jackets appeared they’d come away with a football victory and go a game above .500 a last minute touchdown by Lake Gibson gave Bartow its fourth straight loss 33-29 and a 3-4 record on the season.
The game also saw a Braves player, kicker Beckly Njoh, taken to the hospital by ambulance when he and Rashon Denegall collided at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The home crowd was especially enthusiastic in welcoming the Jackets onto the field, getting behind the squad in the next to last home game of the year.
In the first half Bartow stayed on top the entire way an did so for most of the second half.
The game opened as Denegall returned the kick to the 32 and Bartow set up shop there.
Dimitri Leverett kept the ball for a 20 yard gain. Michael Walker tacked on 13 more yards and was wrestled down by his face mask, adding 15 more. Leverett found Vontarius West on a screen for 7, then Walker juked his way to the end zone for the score. Bartow took the 6-0 lead with only a minute and six seconds gone, taking just four plays. Alex Montes kicked the ball through to add to the lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, a direct snap to running back Keyshawn Martin led to a toss to Roy’Qies Graham, who threw to a wide open Leverett for a score. After a Lake Gibson penalty, Bartow elected to go for two, but failed. With just six seconds gone in the second quarter, Bartow was up 13-0.
A drive stalled at the 36 and Lake Gibson got another shot. The Braves made the best of this one. After being backed up by a penalty, quarterback Trey Congdon found Eric Carteer for a 35-yard hookup.
The drive marched on for another six plays until Tyler Brown darted in for a five yard TD. The extra point made it 13-7 Bartow with 3:41 to go in the half.
A touchdown run later by Leverett was called back for a holding penalty. When it was all said and done, Montes came to the field to attempt a 30 yard field goal. A low snap made it dicey, but the kick was true and Bartow went on top 16-3 with 10 seconds to go.
Lake Gibson used a 13 play drive to score their second touchdown of the game. Prince Thomas followed his blockers for a four yard run to pay dirt. The game grew closer with the extra point with Bartow up by 2 early in the second half.
On the third play of their next possession, Bartow added to the lead when a leaping Williams snatched the ball from a defender and scooted down the near sideline to add another Jacket touchdown. Leverett laid the ball right where his receiver could make the play. The 76 yard scoring play at 6:02 put the score at 22-14, which is where it stayed when the extra point was blocked.
After turnover Walker carried for 6 and Holt tacked on three more. With third and short, Holt took the handoff and dragged tacklers, breaking the tackles to run 30 yards to the 15. Four plays later, Leverett went to the left side from two yards out. Montes put it through the uprights with 7 seconds remaining in the third. Bartow led 29-14.
On the last play of the quarter, Tyler Brown broke loose for a 66-yard scamper to post the third touchdown for the Braves. With kicker Njoh’s extra point, the third quarter ended Bartow 29, Lake Gibson 21.
On the kickoff to start the fourth quarter, Denegall and Lake Gibson kicker Njoh’s collided at full speed. Denegall made it to the sidelines, but Njoh remained on the field for several minutes receiving medical attention. He was transported via ambulance from the field and the game resumed after a 15 minute delay.
During the Lake Gibson drive, the scoreboard went dark, forcing officials to keep time on the field. The scoreboard came back on, but officials stayed diligent on the time in case it happened again.
Bartow was called for offsides that gave Lake Gibson new life. They needed two plays for Brown to slash in from the three. Lake Gibson needed a two-point conversion to tie. A pass to the end zone was broken up by West, who was called for pass interference and Lake Gibson had new life. They went to the ground and the runner fell short, keeping Bartow on top 29-27 with 3:53 showing on the clock. The backup kicker sent the ball out of bounds and Bartow gained starting position at the 35.
Two of Bartow’s three plays were losses and Lake Gibson got the ball with 2:47 to play.
They went to the ground with Tyler Brown doing the deed from three yards out to put Lake Gibson ahead for the first time. The extra point was missed, but Bartow fell behind by 4, 33-29.
Only 16 seconds left brought the crowd to its feet. But Bartow couldn’t score despite a dropped pass in the end zone on final play.