Heartbreaker ends Tiger football season

Branson’s Cristian Berumen shed two tackles, then bulled his way into the end
zone for a sudden-death game-winner over Republic, lifting the Pirates to a 33-27 win in the opening round of the district playoffs. Berumen’s second touchdown of the night ended Republic’s season and set Branson up for a district semifinal game at Carthage next week.
It was the second time Republic and Branson met this season with the same result. In both meetings, Republic started slowly and fought back before Branson ultimately snagged the victory. Friday, unlike the first meeting, the Tigers actually took the lead in the second half, but couldn’t hold on.
With the teams tied at 27 after regulation, both sides got the ball on the 25-yard line in the overtime period. Republic’s offense took the field first and failed to get a first down. After an incomplete pass to open the series, Lucas Hayes completed a pass to Claye White to set up a third-and-one. But with two chances to get the final yard they needed, the Tigers fell short and failed to score.
Branson faced a third- and-10 on its possession in overtime and looked like it might have to settle for a long field goal attempt to win the game. But a completed pass gave the Pirates a first down, and Berumen reached the end zone two plays later to win the game. Berumen finished with 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
As in the teams’ first meeting, Branson controlled the first half. The Pirates scored on their first two drives of the night – one
for 93 yards and another for 60 yards. In between, Republic settled for a field goal by Marco Donjuan, and Branson led 14-3 late in the first quarter.
The Pirates scored again to stretch their lead to 20-3 before Republic got in the end zone for the first time. Hayes capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive with a one- yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, and Branson led 20-9.
Hayes’ touchdown was his 32nd of the season, setting a new school record. The previous record holder, Kory Stout, threw for 20 touch- downs and rushed for 11 in 1995. Hayes completed 10 touchdown passes this year to go along with 22 rushing touchdowns. (Stout’s 20 TD passes are still a school record.)
Republic continued its comeback in the second half, scoring on its first drive. The Tigers marched 77 yards on 11 plays and scored on a six-yard touchdown run by Riley Sigman. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the score was 20-15 Branson.
After Branson scored again to take a 27-15 lead, Sigman struck again for the Tigers. His second touch- down of the night made it 27-21, but Republic missed another extra point.
Branson had a chance to seal the victory with a long fourth-quarter drive, but the Republic defense made its biggest stop of the season on fourth-and-inches deep in its own territory. After Republic forced the turnover ondowns,the offense put together an 88-yard drive that included 11 plays, scoring a touchdown to tie the game 27-27 with 1:21 remaining.
But the third missed extra point of the night left the game tied, setting up Berumen’s heroics in overtime.
After the game, coach Dustin Baldwin noted that the problems with the kicking game were uncharacter- istic after Marco Donjuan had been a solid contributor all season, but came at a bad time. “Marco just doesn’t miss extra points, but he did tonight,” Baldwin said. “That cost us.”
Hayes completed 16 passes in 22 attempts in his final game as a Tiger, throwing for 178 yards. He also rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries.
Sigman may have put together his best game as a Tiger in his finale. He racked up 207 rushing yards on 25 carries, including 158 yards in the second half to help lead the Republic comeback. He also caught three passes for 60 yards.
Josh Sterling carried the ball six times for 32 yards and also had four receptions for 27 yards. Claye White caught the ball three times for 21 yards, and Skyler Locke had a career-high three receptions for 23 yards in his final game. Gavin Walker caught three balls, also, for 47 yards.
Despite a difficult season that resulted in a 2-8 record, after the game, an emotional Baldwin had good things to say about his players.
“I told the kids at the end of the game, ‘You can say the coaches aren’t very good, or say we didn’t play very good, or we didn’t win many games. You can say whatever.’ But you know, they never quit, ever. They fought all year and they never quit. So I’m proud of them.”


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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