WELLSBURG - Debuting on its new turf and playing for the first time under head coach Sean Blumette, what should have been a glorious evening for the Brooke football team ended in bitter frustration.
The Bruins lost their top rusher and all-state linebacker Raleigh Mason with a knee injury on the third play from scrimmage, were penalized 22 times for 160 yards and had a game-tying extra point sail wide late in the fourth quarter while going down to a wild, 35-34 defeat to Parkersburg on Friday night at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
Senior quarterback Alec Buchmelter passed for 322 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair of scoring strikes to unheralded 6-foot-5 freshman receiver Thomas Cole, but it still wasn't enough to put Brooke in the victory column.
The see-saw battle that saw the two offenses combine for more than 700 yards and the lead change hands four times, was finally decided when Parkersburg's Chandler Hamilton bolted 52 yards to paydirt with 4:40 to play. Codey Roney's conversion kick put the Big Reds in front to stay at 35-28.
Brooke rallied behind Buchmelter's 11-yard scoring toss to Heath Hildreth, closing the gap to 35-34 with 1:36 remaining. However, Jake Schwertfeger's conversion attempt saw the ball sail wide to the left.
''We liked our scheme this week which gave us some stuff we thought we could take advantage of,'' Blumette said while sitting on the Bruins bench and taking several large gulps from a bottle of water after talking with his disappointed team.
''Football is a game of inches. The fumble on the 1-yard, the penalties and missed opportunities are going to give us some things to second-guess for a while. But we'll get back to work (today) when we look at the film and start getting ready to play St. Clairsville next week.''
The injury to Mason put the Bruins in a hole early but Buchmelter was able to generate plenty of offense rushing for 115 yards and one TD to go with his impressive passing numbers.
''To lose a player of Raleigh's caliber was tough,'' Blumette said. ''The guy is our team captain and the leader of our defense. We're not sure how serious the injury is but we sent him to the hospital for an MRI.''
Without Mason in the middle, Parkersburg was able to find plenty of running room for 210-pound senior running back Adam Lindamood, who carried 18 times for 106 yards, including scoring runs of 12, 1 and 16 yards.
Big Reds junior quarterback Aaron Roberts also had a good night completing 10 of 13 passes for 101 yards including a 9-yard scoring toss to Lantz Hoyler.
After blowing a golden scoring chance in the opening quarter, Brooke finally drew first blood following the recovery of a fumbled punt at midfield. Buchmelter's deep throw down the middle to freshman,Justin Loughrie for 34 yards got the ball close. On the opening play of the second quarter, Buchmelter lobbed a pass into the left corner of the end zone that saw the rangy Cole reach over two defenders for the score. The kick failed leaving the lead at 6-0 with 11:54 remaining in the half.
Parkersburg then started turning Hamilton and Lindamood loose on a eight-play 69-yard march. The TD came when Lindamood started right and cut back across the grain for the final 12 yard and the visitors went ahead 7-6 at the 9:23 mark.
Hamliton's interception and 19-yard return of a Buchmelter pass put the Big Reds in business at the Brooke 21. Roberts' 20-yard strike moved the ball to the 1 and Lindamood scored on the next play and Parkersburg led 13-6.
Brooke responded with three Buchmelter completions, the last being a 14-yard toss that Cole again used his height to take the ball away for the TD. Schwertfeger's placement tied the score at 13-13.
Cole's contribution to the passing game was not unexpected by the Bruins' first-year coach but the two scoring plays were decisions made by Buchmelter.
''Honestly, those two touchdowns were not supposed to go to him," Blumette pointed out. ''Buck saw the matchups both times and took advantage of them. That is something he has the freedom to do all the time.
''Thomas showed us he could play at this level during our 7-on-7 scrimmages when we had the freshmen join us. He is a special player. Although the kid is just 14 years old, he is 6-5 and weighs 205 pounds. His height creates some mismatches for us and we are fortunate enough to have a smart signal-caller throw him the ball.''
Brooke extended the lead to 21-13 with 40 seconds to go in the half on an 18-yard crossing pattern to Hunter Wallace. Loughrie then ran for the 2-point conversion.
Parkersburg scored the first 15 points of the second half to regain the lead at 28-21. Lindamood's 16-yard scoring jaunt closed the gap to 21-19 but a pass attempt for a 2-point conversion failed. The Big Reds got even however after a holding penalty pushed Brooke inside the 10. Then a full blitz saw three Big Reds drop Buchmelter in the end zone for a safety that tied the score at 21-21.
The free kick was returned inside the Bruins 40 and following another 15-yard march off against Brooke, the ball was moved inside the 10. Roberts faked a handoff inside and hit Hoyler for the go-ahead score.
Buchmelter's 1-yard sneak and Schwertfeger's placement tied the score at 28-28 with eight minutes to play.
The Big Reds came out in a spread formation that fooled the defense as Hamilton broke free up the middle on his 52-yard TD jaunt.