By Phillip Higginbotham
The La Vernia Bears overcame a slew of obstacles to beat the Pleasanton Eagles, 36-29, in La Vernia on Friday night.
The Bears entered Friday night at 1-6 and 1-1 in the district. Pleasanton came into Bears Stadium 6-1 and 2-0.
La Vernia deferred the opening kickoff to Pleasanton. Bear senior C.J. Kincaid intercepted an Eagle pass on the second play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Bear senior Wyatt Cowsert ran 29 yards for the Bears’ first touchdown of the night. Later in the quarter, La Vernia senior quarterback Matthew Helinski ran the ball 6 yards into the end zone. A bad snap on the extra point attempt left the score at 13-0.
Near the end of the quarter, Helinski scrambled for 4 yards but sustained an injury on the play that kept him off the field for the rest of the game. The Bears turned to sophomore Garrett Landin to lead the offense.
The Eagles were forced to punt on their first possession of the second quarter, but a bad bounce resulted in a Bear player touching the ball, and Pleasanton recovered on the Bears’ 23-yard line. Three plays later, the Eagles scored, closing the gap to 13-7.
La Vernia answered right back on their next possession, when Landin hooked up with Cowsert on a 40-yard touchdown pass. The Bears attempted a 2-point conversion, but Pleasanton intercepted the pass. La Vernia’s Parker Beck chased the play down from behind to keep the Eagles from stealing the 2 points. La Vernia sustained another injury to Cowsert near the end of the half.
The Bears were set to receive the second half kickoff, but a fumble was recovered by Pleasanton. The Eagles scored with 11:01 left in the third quarter, cutting La Vernia’s lead to 19-14. With Cowsert sidelined, the Bears turned to junior Derrik Barnhardt to carry the ball. In the third quarter, Barnhardt carried the ball 12 times for 54 yards. The Bears added a field goal near the end of the quarter to make the score 22-14.
Pleasanton roared back at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring on a 22-yard pass. They succeeded on a 2-point conversion attempt to tie the score at 22. Unfortunately, the officials called a targeting penalty on Bears senior John Hernandez, and he was ejected from the game.
La Vernia’s next possession went nowhere, and the Bears were forced to punt. The Eagles fumbled the punt recovery and the Bears pounced on the ball. Barnhardt took the ball 31 yards into the end zone in four plays to take a 29-22 lead.
Pleasanton got some help from the officials twice in their next drive and capitalized with a touchdown of their own to tie the score again at 29.
Barnhardt received the kickoff for the Bears and moved the ball into Pleasanton territory before being brought down at the Eagles’ 45-yard line with 2:19 left in the game. Barnhardt carried the ball seven straight times and scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Bears are now 2-6 on the season and 2-1 in district, putting them in a four-way tie for first place. La Vernia travels to Rockport-Fulton to take on the Pirates (5-3, 1-2) this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.