On an opening night to the 2019 high school football season that saw its fair share of surprises around the state, the Charleston Tigers comeback bid against the Melbourne Bearkatz fell just short in a hard fought 28-24 loss. The game was played on the campus of Hendrix College in Conway.
If you were late to the game, you missed an opening kickoff returned by Melbourne for a quick touchdown that set the tone for the entire game. The result of the touchdown forced Charleston to play catch-up for the entire game.
The game was a story of two halves. The first half was a showcase of Melbourne’s explosiveness on offense and Charleston’s determination to stay in the game. The Tigers battled their way back from a significant deficit to pull within three points at the half. Melbourne scored 14 points in the first quarter and Charleston scored 6. In the second quarter, Charleston cut into the Bearkatz lead with 12 points and only 7 by Melbourne. The halftime score was 21-18 Melbourne.
The second half was a defensive battle on both sides of the ball. After a scoreless third quarter, Charleston took its first lead with 4:31 remaining in the game. After a touchdown and an unsuccessful conversion, the Tigers lead 24-21. The lead however was short lived when another explosive Melbourne play gave the Bearcatz the lead for good at 28-24.
The game was a physical battle that took its toll on the Tigers and added to its list of preseason injuries that is impacting the team. Despite the injuries, the Tigers battled the 2018 state playoffs Bearkatz down to the last drive of the game before time expired on the Tigers final drive.
Ricky May, who was seeking his first win as the Tigers new coach, commented after the game, “Offense played great. Ran the ball well. Just can’t give up big plays in the secondary. That’s what we did. The opening kickoff killed us. We just didn’t make plays when we had to. Melbourne made plays and Charleston didn’t.”
When asked about the injuries that took place during the game, Coach May said, “We limited Jonathan Williams tonight, just played offense. Breckon Ketter left the game with an injury, and #22 (Tanner Jones), we don’t know what the diagnosis is there. So that is about five on the year (losses to key players due to injuries.)”
Next week, the Tigers return to the road again for another tough match-up. This time, it’s the class 4A Dardanelle Sand Lizards. Dardanelle is 1-0 after defeating Gentry in week one. The Tigers will kickoff at Dardanelle at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 6.
The Tigers need to heal both physically and emotionally from the loss to Melbourne. There is little time to prepare before the next opponent comes up on the schedule. The Tigers have to put this loss behind them quickly and focus their preparation on Dardanelle and the continuation of a brutal non-conference schedule leading into conference play. It will need everyone on the field to be competitive with their strength of schedule.