By Mac McLeod,
From the very outset, on paper, last Friday night’s Region 4, 4A contest between Livingston Academy and Cumberland County High School was almost a perfect matchup. Both teams were struggling, Livingston rebuilding with only two seniors, and Cumberland getting over several years of not winning and trying to get back in a groove.
It looked like a game that should end 7-6.
And had it ended at the half, it would have been pretty much a one or two touchdown game, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, there were 24 more minutes to play after a 20-14 halftime lead, and those 24 minutes were a total disaster.
Going into the game, Livingston posted a 0-6 record while the Jets had won 3 and lost four, the three wins were not against very strong opposition. Both were 0-3 in Region play. The only good news was the winner still had a chance of making the playoffs if it could win both remaining contests. The bad news was both played teams that were either leading the region or were tied for second spot.
In the end, it was a game of pride. For Livingston, a possible win in a so far winless season, and for Cumberland, some revenge for years of being a doormat of the area.
And for the first two offensive series for both, it was three and out with nothing impressive. Livingston ran the ball twice and threw four times, completing once, a 4-yarder from quarterback Brodey Coffee to Carson Parrott, while Cumberland did much the same.
But Cumberland would make the game’s first of many mistakes. Coffee, playing defensive linebacker, picked off a Jets pass and raced 76 yards for the night’s first touchdown and gave the Wildcats their first lead of the season.
The home team responded on the very next series with a 40-yard pass. The conversion knotted the game at 7. Suddenly the fairly large crowd was getting its money’s worth.
“We were doing just about everything right at that point, and a good week of practice was paying off,” Livingston coach Dale Flatt observed after the game. “If we had just done that well in the second half, it would have been, or could have been a good night.”
With the game tied at 7, Livingston pulled off one of its best offensive plays of the season when Coffee found Xander Cantrell behind the defense and hit him with a perfect pass that Cantrell carried 80 yards for a go-ahead score.The try for the extra-point was blocked, but the Wildcats were again on top.
“That was really fun,” Cantrell stated later, “but we didn’t finish the job. That’s disappointing.”
The first quarter ended 13-7 with the Wildcats on top at the end of a quarter for the first time this season. And it got a little better in the second quarter when Coffee found Parrott open for a 27-yard touchdown pass, and when Dylan Watson added the point-after, Livingston was up by 13, 20-7.
But and with only 22 seconds remaining in the half, the Jets marched 86 yards to pull within six, 20-14, at intermission.
“But we didn’t get it done,” running back Lochlan Hammock would explain after the game. “We were playing well, especially on defense, and we were leading and heading for a win, then we just let it get away in the third quarter. That’s very disappointing.”
Cumberland took the second half kickoff and marched 58 yards to take a one-point lead at 21-20.
Then the roof fell in on the Wildcats. Coffee threw two quick interceptions that the Jets quickly turned into points, and with 5 minutes remaining in the quarter, suddenly Livingston found itself on the short end of a 34-20, score and to add insult to injury, Livingston was stopped for a safety. Going to the final 12 minutes, what was once a very exciting and close game was turning into an ugly outing. Livingston trailed 36-20.
Cumberland put the final cap on the game with a quick fourth quarter score and ended the night on top of a 43-20 win.
“We did so well early, then I guess they (Cumberland ) figured out our plan and hit us hard in that second half,” lineman Nathan Hargis pointed out. “I take a lot of responsibility for that since I’m in the middle of the line, but they just ran over us and we could not stop #22 or #20 (Treven McGhee and Drayton Hairston). Give them credit, they did what they had to do, and we didn’t.”
On the night, Livingston posted 214 yards of total offense, with only 49 on the ground and the 165 through the air aided by Cantrell’s 80-yard touchdown and 52 yards from Parrott on three receptions. On the ground, Coffee picked up 22 , Hammock added 17, and Trey Coleman got 2.
Defensively, Gage Hoffman led the way with 9 tackles, followed closely by Trey Coleman, Daryon Hoover, and Cantrell with 7 each. Newcomer Colton Walker had a good night with 6 tackles as did Hammock and Cameron Jackson. Seth Smith and Parker Smith each added 4, Parrott and Will Brown had 3 each, Coffee was good for 2, and Jaden Lawrence and Elijah Robinson both had 1.
“It’s a step in the right direction, at least for a while,” defensive lineman Hoffman observed after the game. “We fell down in the second half, and we’ll just have to watch film to see why. We did make far too many mental mistakes that led to all kinds of bad things, and we’ll just have to keep going after those things. The first half was good, the second not so good.”
Livingston will have two weeks to work on making corrections as the Wildcats have this Friday off before returning for the season’s final two regular season games, and those two games could be extremely difficult as Watertown will come to Tucker Stadium on October 22 for Senior Night, then the season will close with Region-leading Upperman in Baxter on October 29.
“This break will give us some time to heal and also work on different things,” Coach Flatt concluded. “We saw some progress tonight, then we saw some things that were not what we wanted. We are learning and growing up at the same time. That can be difficult, but it has been a challenge.”