OAKLAND — The Tri-County Titan football team suffered its first loss of the season to a tough Cumberland Pirate team, 42-7 on Homecoming and Senior Night.
It was a huge game atmosphere in Oakland. Tri-County had its sights set on starting the season 4-0 for the first time in seven years taking on the Cumberland Pirates, who were looking to get to 3-1 after suffering their first loss against Arcola last week.
The game was the Little Okaw Valley Conference Southeast Division opener for both teams. The Titans and the Pirates are t the only two teams in the division with winning records through the first three games of the season.
Both teams have different styles with the visiting Pirates having more of an up tempo game while the Titans used their ground-and-pound running game.
The game was a tale of two completely different halves, but it was the Pirates who found the key to success at the right time en route to the 42-7 win and handing Titans Coach Brian Anderson his first loss at the helm of Tri-County.
In the first quarter, the Pirates moved the ball down the field on the opening possession deep into Tri-County territory. It was the Titan defense standing firm to keep Cumberland out of the end zone.
The Titans opening drive was not as sharp as in previous games as the Pirates defense came to play forcing a Tri-County punt to get the ball back.
Cumberland then took a page out of the Tri-County playbook using their version of a wishbone offense to drive down the field and get the first score of the contest with 56 seconds left in the first quarter. Wyatt Brandt plunged in from four yards out and then ran in the two point conversion to give the Pirates an 8-0 lead.
Tri-County then answered the bell at the end of the quarter in a big way as Lane Bisby found a seam on the left side and clocked off a 58-yard run, aided by a personal foul horse collar penalty putting the ball all the way down to the Pirates four yard line.
The Titans punctuated the drive on the first play of the second quarter as Blake Lee carried the ball in from four yards out and then kicked the extra point with 11:56 left to cut the deficit to 8-7.
The Pirates answered that drive with a time consuming drive of their own, getting into the end zone again at the 6:58 mark in the second quarter as Brandt once again ran it in from three yards out for his second touchdown. Brandt again converted the two-point conversion to put Cumberland back up 16-7.
The Titan offense was able to move the ball down into Pirate territory late in the half, but was unable to capitalize and Cumberland took that nine point lead into the locker room.
The second half was a completely different story.
The Pirates kept making adjustments on defense forcing the Titans to either punt the ball or turn it over on downs. Cumberland continued their scoring at the 4:42 mark as Connor Butler caught a 25 yard pass from quarterback Gabe Hatfill for the score. Brandt ran in the two point
conversion to make the score 24-7.
On the next possession, the Titans coughed up the football in their own territory. Cumberland capitalized on the mistake as Brandt ran in his third touchdown from 30 yards out with 1:04 left giving the Pirates a commanding 30-7 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
In the final quarter, Cumberland continued their onslaught in a big way as Myles Gerhardt took a hand off up the far sideline and used his speed to sprint 65 yards for a touchdown withe 7:53 mark left in the game, giving the Pirates a 36-7 lead.
Cumberland then put an exclamation point on the game with 5:42 left as Butler ran the ball in from five yards out putting the Pirates up 42-7.
Even though the Titans were ready for the Pirates, it was the physicality of Cumberland that Coach Anderson was surprised to see from them.
“They’re a good team,” Anderson said. “They have a lot of weapons. They were a little more physical than I anticipated or realized. I was real proud of the way we hung in there for a long time. It was 16-7 at halftime and we got the ball coming out (in the second half). We just didn’t sustain drives. Give them credit defensively. Coach Watkins said they spent a lot of time on defense trying to improve it.”
The Titans managed only eight first downs total for the game and 164 yards of total offense. Lane Bisby had ten touches for 91 yards and ten total tackles on defense. Daniel Drake had six carries for 21 yards and Blake Lee added five carries for 16 yards and a score. Mitch Pollock went 3 of 12 passing for 13 yards, all of the yards to Mason Hutchinson. Chris Hutchinson added a sack in the loss. Even though the players were devastated about the loss, Coach Anderson knows that there is still a lot to play for.
“I told the guys afterwards that I would rather play a really good team to see how good we are,” Anderson added. “Guys are pretty broke up right now, but we just played a really good team.”
Anderson mentioned also that they have another good team coming and need to get back to the drawing board and get better.
The Titans (3-1, 0-1 LOVC Southeast) will travel to Catlin on Friday night for a non-conference game against the Salt Fork Storm. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Salt Fork High School.