PURCHASE LINE — Blairsville certainly made some mistakes that allowed Purchase Line to get back in the game.
The more important point for the Bobcats, though, is that they played more than well enough to overcome those miscues, clicking on offense all night and holding off a plucky Purchase Line team, 34-26, in a Heritage Conference football game Friday night at Barry T. Madill Memorial Field.
“Obviously that’s not how we wanted it to happen, but we have young athletes, and we’ve got to understand that we’re not going to make it that way the rest of the year,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “We’re not going to make it through the next four weeks for sure playing like that.”
Grant Syster ran for 277 yards, leading a Purchase Line comeback in the second half after Blairsville had dominated the first and taken a 20-0 lead.
Bobcats quarterback Scott Thompson fumbled the first two snaps he took in the second half, and Purchase Line pounced on both and the opportunities to points, pulling as close as 20-12 midway through the third quarter.
“To our kids’ credit, they regained their composure at halftime and came back and fought hard and played between the whistles and made some plays,” Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said. “That’s all I can ask. We’re going to get better. We’re going to get more mature, because we’re pretty young, and when we do that, things will start going our way.”
Thompson more than made up for his two errors with a 14-for-21 passing night, throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score. It was his game-changing play late in the third quarter that broke Purchase Line’s back.
In the shotgun formation at the Purchase Line 10-yard line, the snap sailed over Thompson’s head, and the quarterback retreated a good 15 yards to retrieve the ball. The junior still had the presence of mind to spot receiver Colton McMillan and hit him in the end zone for what was officially a 10-yard touchdown pass, stopping Purchase Line’s scoring run and putting the Bobcats up 27-12.
“We just didn’t have an answer for the passing game,” Overdorff said. “Give them credit. The Thompson kid’s a tremendous athlete. On a blown play, fourth-and-whatever, that could’ve kept us in the game. He picks up a snap over his head, scrambles around and throws it to some kid running on the very back line of the end zone for a touchdown. If they don’t make that play, look out.”
By that point, Syster was rolling and had a chance to bring the Dragons even. After Thompson fumbled for the first time, giving Purchase Line the ball on the Bobcats’ 20-yard line, Syster scored on a 12-yard run. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound junior ran for 195 yards in the second half alone, adding two more touchdowns late, including an 89-yarder.
“I think we had a star born tonight in Grant Syster,” Overdorff said.
“We’ve been hoping for that. The kid’s been working hard in the weight room. He just never misses a beat. He’s in there lifting hard. He’s a big, strong kid with some speed. We’ve been waiting for him to come of age, and he did that tonight, and hopefully we did that as an offensive line, too. It wasn’t just him. Hopefully we’ve got something to build on with that. I expect big things out of him in his career.”
Alec Sunderlin hit Quentin Woods on a 13-yard touchdown pass for the Dragons’ second score, after Thompson fumbled again in Blairsville territory. But the Bobcats regained their offensive footing with Thompson’s heads-up TD pass and a 5-yard run for a score after that.
“You turn the ball over inside the 25, I don’t care who you are, your defense has a tough battle ahead to try to stop that,” Artley said. “We let them back in it, but then we answered and found a way to make plays.
“The first two plays of a drive, just to fumble the ball, other than that, we still put 34 points up. I’m pretty happy with our offense.”
The Bobcats dominated the first half, outgaining Purchase Line 191-84 while benefiting from the Dragons’ eight penalties for 80 yards.
“We just didn’t make enough plays tonight, and we weren’t disciplined enough in the first half, which killed us,” Overdorff said.
Deion Robinson led the Bobcats with 82 yards on 21 carries. He scored twice in the first half, and Thompson hit Cameron Livingston for Blairsville’s other score.
Robinson ran for 192 yards in Blairsville’s Week 1 win at Marion Center.
“The difference is they kept eight, nine guys in the box,” Artley said.
“We have the ability, if you’re going to try to take one (away); we have some athletes that can make plays on the other end. That’s the one plus about us. A lot of teams will just continue to try and run the ball. We’re pretty confident in throwing the football.”
As for Purchase Line, Overdorff knew he was going to give the ball to Syster, just not necessarily 34 carries.
“They weren’t stopping it, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Purchase Line coach said. “It wasn’t necessarily my plan. We planned to run him a lot, but not that many times. I don’t know what he had, but they couldn’t stop it, so you stay with what’s working.
“The only people that keep stopping us is us. We’ve got to get better at that, but our effort is there. We’re getting more physical. We’re playing with the kind of intensity that I want. We’ve just got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot and have kids step up like Grant did tonight and make plays for us, and we’ll start winning ballgames again.”