ELIZABETH -Wirt County coach Jason Hickman was at loss to explain the No. 4 Tigers' 42-19 upset loss to No. 13 Bishop Donahue.
The Tigers were on the verge of reclaiming a two-score lead when star utility player Dalton Brindo, attempting to stretch into the end zone fumbled the ball. Bishop Donahue recovered, and the Tigers never did.
The 13th-rated Bishops (8-3) reeled off five touchdowns before Wirt County (9-2) responded, but it was too little to late and Hickman and Co. left the field stunned after their first Class A playoff upset loss.
Bishop Donahue’s Ollie Parker avoids a Wirt County tackler during Friday’s first-round Class A playoff victory.
Photo by Jeff Baughn
''I still don't know what happened,'' Hickman said. ''We fumbled it and never got control. We lost momentum and never got it back.''
Wirt, which came into the playoffs 9-1, had beaten four playoff teams in the regular season, including Class AA Roane County.
''You don't go 9-1 without overcoming adversity,'' Hickman said.
But the Tigers couldn't stop the Bishops. They couldn't keep them down either.
Wirt defenders delivered several punishing blows to the smaller Bishop Donahue players, but the Bishops kept getting up, unfazed.
''We kept hitting them and they kept coming back,'' Hickman said.
Bishop Donahue's speed and resiliency was too much to overcome.
Ollie Parker led Bishop Donahue with a 144 yards and the Bishops scored five rushing touchdowns. Jordan Bonar had 84-yards and three scores for Bishop Donahue.
The Bishops also used two big punt returns to set up scoring drives and Garrett Yurisko's 53-yard interception return for a score was the icing on the cake in victory.
Initially, Wirt County appeared headed for a blowout victory, scoring on its first two possessions, taking advantage of a pair of Bishop Donahue miscues. The Tigers recovered a Bonar fumble at the Tigers 29 and Brindo led them downfield for a score.
The Bishops drove down the field the again, only to again be stopped by Brindo, who this time made a dazzling one-handed interception in the end zone off a Cody Ballard 20-yard pass attempt.
The Tigers moved easily downfield for another score a 13-0 lead. It appeared the rout was on.
Bishops coach John Durdines said there was never a sense of panic from his team.
''We knew we could move the ball,'' he said.
Bishop Donahue regained its composure and put together yet a third drive into Tigers territory. This time scoring on a 3-yard run from Bonar.
Wirt, again, counter-punched.
Brindo moved the Tigers into scoring position. On a second-and-goal from the 5, Brindo took the snap from center and ran up the middle. He dove for the end zone, but lost the ball as he came down. It rolled into the center of the end zone and the Bishops recovered.
They scored twice before the half to take a 22-13 lead.
Hickman didn't panic. With Brindo at the helm, he didn't need to.
Wirt County, down a score, was far from out of the game. But when it's two second-half possessions failed to produce points, Hickman found himself staring at a 36-13 hole.
Brindo led the Tigers with a game-high 236 yards on 37 carries. He also threw for 37 yards and a touchdown. But the Bishops keyed on him when he lined at quarterback, according to John Durdines.
''We started pressuring and blitzing the gaps,'' he said. ''We keyed on Brindo.
''Whe he lined up a quarterback we felt he was more of a threat to run than pass.''