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By Zach Maxwell
KNOX CITY—The Ira Bulldogs outlasted Knox City last Friday (Sept. 17) 62-52 in a back-and-forth struggle between district rivals.
Ira started things off with a 27-yard scoring run from Cody McCowen plus the point-after for an 8-0 lead early in the first. The Hounds answered less than 90 seconds later with a touchdown pass from Bryson Callaway to Ryan Shaver but the point-after was denied and Ira led 8-6.
Knox City kept up the pressure as another Callaway pass found Kobe Roberts for a 22-yard score and a 12-8 lead barely midway through the first quarter. Kendale Smith got the point-after to help the Hounds take a 14-8 lead.
But it was short lived and Ira would lead the rest of the way. The Bulldogs took it back 16-14 late in the first on a 46-yard run from McCowen, part of 32 unanswered points for Ira going into the second quarter. Trailing 40-14, the Hounds finally got some back on an 18-yard scamper for Tristin Baxter to make the score 40-22 in Ira’s favor at the half.
Knox City wasn’t done, as they scored 16 points in a matter of seconds deep into the third quarter. Cameron Hernandez got a touchdown and was followed shortly by a 34-yard score by Ryan Shaver (receiving from Callaway) and it was a 40-38 game.
But Ira scored 16 points on two McCowen TDs to end the third with a 56-38 lead. Most of the fourth quarter was a scoreless stalemate until Callaway’s 46-yard keeper found pay dirt to cut the deficit to 10 at 56-46 for Ira. The Bulldogs would score once more with 2:41 to go, giving Ira a late 62-46 lead.
Callaway would find Hernandez for a nine-yard score in the closing seconds to close the gap at 62-52, the eventual final score favoring Ira. The effort prompted some high praise from Knox City Coach Caleb Callaway.
“I felt we played our best game of the year versus Ira. We had a bad 2nd quarter and that was the difference in the ballgame,” Callaway said. “Our kids really fought till the end and came out firing in the second half. I couldn’t be more proud of our effort all night and we definitely saw some of the growth we have been looking for.
“Our energy was high all night and it showed in the way we played,” coach continued. “When we watched and graded film we also saw improvement and that is what we are looking for.
The Greyhounds amassed 215 passing yards as Callaway was 13-for-19 in passing. Ira tallied 323 rushing yards out of 359 total, compared to 257 rushing yards for Knox City’s total of 472 offensive yards.
Rushing leaders for Knox City: Hernandez 114 yards on 22 carries, Baxter 89 yards on 12 carries, Callaway 53 yards on seven carries.
Reception leaders for Knox City: Baxter 2 for 74 yards, Shaver 5 for 72 yards, Roberts 3 for 40 yards, Hernandez 3 for 30 yards.
Knox City travels to Bryson this Friday night (Sept. 24). “This week we should have a good string of practices improving in some areas and getting ready to travel and play Bryson,” Callaway said. “I know our schedule put us through some trials and that our growth from those is being seen as we get closer to district. We look to have another week of improvement and are keeping our eyes on where we are going and the process to get there.”