By Morgan Bryce
The Matthew Johnson era at Beulah High School started off in a sloppy but winning fashion Friday night as the Bobcats edged the Loachapoka Indians 14-6.
Junior Loachapoka receiver Rayshaun Butts took the opening kickoff 70 yards for a score, resulting in a hushed silence over much of Bobcat Stadium. Kicker John Gutierrez shanked the ensuing extra-point try, leaving the Indians with a 6-0 lead.
Like he did throughout the game, Beulah running back Chris Person shouldered the workload on the Bobcats’ opening drive. Running with pace and rhythm down the field, Person picked up all of his team’s first downs until the red zone.
Back-to-back sneaks by quarterback Kaleb Abney helped the Bobcats tie the Indians, with kicker/center Jaden Buffington adding the extra point to help give them a 7-6 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
Following an exchange of three-and-outs, Loachapoka opted for a fake punt inside its own 30-yard line later in the first quarter. After a powerful 13-yard rush by Person, Abney powered his way in on another sneak for his second touchdown and Beulah’s final score of the night to make it 14-6.
Further scoring in the game was marred by a slew of mistakes, including 30 combined penalties, botched snaps and handoffs, disqualification of Loachapoka defensive tackle Kengsley Bailey for unsportsmanlike conduct and a number of heat-related cramps and overthrown passes. Both team’s defenses, however, contributed to the low-scoring affair.
Despite a number of players contributing on both sides of the ball, Loachapoka’s defense tackled well in space and maintained containment on the outside.
Beulah’s defense stood tall thrice in the fourth quarter to hang on to a victory. Loachapoka’s best chance came after quarterback/safety Aaron Frazier intercepted a wobbly pass thrown by Abney and returned it inside the Bobcats’ 20-yard line.
On fourth-and-4, Frazier began backpedaling, desperately scrambling to avoid Beulah defenders and give his receivers the precious time they needed to run their routes and get open. Bobcat sophomore Stanley Washington had other plans, however, catching up with the quarterback and slamming him to the ground for an 11-yard sack and turnover on downs.
After the Bobcat defense denied another scoring bid by Loachapoka with fewer than three minutes to spare in the fourth, the Beulah offense was able to run out the clock and escape with a victory.
While the win may have subverted Johnson’s expectations, he said he was proud of his coaching staff and players alike and sees the potential to improve and learn from their mistakes.
“It’s not how I expected it. We had too many penalties, and we didn’t keep our composure at times, which boils down to a poor job of coaching, which we’ll fix,” Johnson said. “Our guys played hard and that defense of Coach (Stan) Peppers played great. He had a great gameplan tonight.”
Improving to 1-0 on the young season, Beulah will have another opportunity to enjoy the confines of Bobcat Stadium this Friday night as they take on Ellwood Christian, whom they defeated 36-0 in a rain-shortened contest last season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. C.S.T.
Loachapoka, currently 0-1, will host Pike Road at Loachapoka Stadium next Friday at 7 p.m. C.S.T.