It looked like the Festus Tigers were going to even their record to 3-3 on Friday night, but after holding a 20-7 lead, the offense dried up and the defense became porous. That can’t happen against a team like the North County Raiders, because they will make you pay. They did just that on Festus’ home turf Friday and came from behind to snatch a 30-20 victory away from the Tigers.
The game started out swimmingly for Festus, as they struck first in the opening quarter on a nifty 59-yard TD from Jeremiah Cunningham to Arhmad Branch. The extra point was true and the Tigers had themselves a 7-0 lead. Things were looking good.
North County fired right back though with a TD of their own on a 13-yard pass play that knotted the game at seven all. But the Tigers had a solid offensive scheme in the first quarter and were able to march down the field to get close enough for Hayden Bates to step up. The bruising running back took the handoff from nine yards out and busted into the endzone, regaining the lead for Festus. The extra point missed, but the Tigers still found themselves with a 13-7 lead after 12 minutes of play.
The momentum was still swinging in Festus’ favor in the second quarter, as Cunningham broke free on a quarterback draw and ripped off a 46-yard run to put The Tigers up 20-7. That would be the high point of the game for the big cats though, as the foundation began to crumble. North County answered with a 27-yard passing TD and a successful two-point try to make it 20-15, and the vibe had clearly shifted heading into the locker room at the half.
In the final 24 minutes, the Tiger offense went ice cold. The defense stood tall in the third quarter, as neither team was able to score, but the Raiders switched over to their punishing ground game and that spelled doom for Festus. In the fourth quarter, North County punched in back to back runs of four and two yards to give them a 30-20 lead. The Tigers simply didn’t have an answer offensively, and that would go down as the final score.
The two QB-system was a bit lopsided this week, as Cunningham owned the majority of the snaps. He was 10-of-19 for 118 yards and a TD and also led the team in rushing with 114 yards and a score on 11 carries. His counterpart, Essien Smith, was just 3-of-7 for 11 yards and rushed for 37 yards on eight attempts.
Bates was the other standout rusher with 40 yards and a TD on 11 carries, and he also had six catches for 30 yards. The leading wideout was Branch though, totaling 56 yards and a TD on three catches. It was banner first half for the Tigers, but they simply disappeared in the second. It was a tough loss to take, especially at home.
Thankfully things will get a little easier next week, as Festus will travel to take on an 0-6 Pacific team, who has struggled mightily all season long. Every win counts at this point for District seeding, so hopefully the Tigers can get another one in the books.
Kickoff is at 7pm on October 7th.