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Buckhorn's Will Thompson, left, wrestles Austin quarterback Justin Jones to the ground at Ogle Stadium in Decatur on Friday night. Buckhorn won 27-21.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Buckhorn's Will Thompson, left, wrestles Austin quarterback Justin Jones to the ground at Ogle Stadium in Decatur on Friday night. Buckhorn won 27-21.

Austin misses playoffs
Black Bears' effort comes up short

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

There were tears Friday night at Ogle Stadium.

And understandably so.

"Our kids played hard for four quarters, and we just came up short," Austin High coach David Norwood said. "There's no doubt, we were ready to play."

Like last season, Austin came into its final Class 6A, Region 8 game needing a win over Buckhorn to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bucks took a 27-21 win and the playoff berth.

The last time Austin made it to the state playoffs was 2003, but the Black Bears looked primed for a postseason appearance, leading the game 21-14 with nine minutes to play.

"I have never seen an Austin team play with that much heart, and we're fortunate to have won the game," Buckhorn coach Michael Jackson said. "Coach Norwood and his staff did a tremendous job getting their team ready to play."

The Bucks (6-3, 5-2 in the region) will be the third seed out of Region 8. Florence (8-1, 7-0) will be the top seed, followed by Huntsville (8-1, 6-1). Bob Jones (5-4, 4-3) earned the fourth and final playoff spot.

Mistakes cost Austin (4-5, 3-4) chances to score on its first three drives. A lost fumble, a botched snap and an interception snuffed out the Black Bears' opening trio of possessions.

Buckhorn quarterback Darien Sharp completed only one pass in the first half — a 30-yard touchdown strike to Cameron Traylor midway through the second quarter for the Bucks' 7-0 halftime lead.

Buckhorn scored again on its first possession of the second half when Marquis Smith's 18-yard touchdown run put the Bucks up 14-0.

This time Austin answered. Jones completed a pair of passes for first downs before running 58 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Black Bears within 14-7 with 7:58 left in the third quarter.

After the Black Bears defense forced a three-and-out, Austin scored again four minutes later on Cornelius Birt's 3-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt was blocked, and Austin still trailed 14-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

Another three-and-out by the Black Bears' defense kept Buckhorn in check, and Austin grabbed its first lead of the game when Jones connected with Freddie Moore in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass with nine minutes left. Jones' pass to Moore on a 2-point conversion made it 21-14, Austin.

"I thought they were very explosive on offense and their skill positions worried us because of their speed," Jackson said.

Buckhorn tied the game at 21 on Smith's 4-yard run with 3:13 to play and used an interception on the 48-yard line to regain possession just over a minute later. The Bucks tacked on the game-winning points on a 1-yard run by Meco Miller. The extra-point attempt was wide left, leaving the Bucks ahead 27-21. It also opened the door for Austin's offense with a six-point margin and 1:18 to play, but the Black Bears' final drive was again stopped by an interception near the 35-yard line.

"I was not disappointed with the way either side of the ball played, but (Buckhorn) didn't come out and do anything we weren't prepared for" Norwood said. "I hate it for these guys. I do. Overall, we played good. A couple of breakdowns just cost us."

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