After trailing for most of the night, Bracken County used a game-changing interception and benefitted from a fortuitous drop to get a 43-41 win over Paris on Friday night.
It was the first time in program history Bracken County left Blanton Collier Stadium with a win. The Polar Bears defeated Paris for just the second time in eight meetings.
The No. 10 Polar Bears, ranked for the first time in the Associated Press Class A poll, took their first lead with 3:12 remaining in the game. Junior Griffin Appleman scored his third touchdown of the night and Austin Stubblefield was successful on his second straight two-point conversion rushing attempt to put Bracken County ahead 43-35.
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That go-ahead score came three and a half minutes after Nick Parker juked a Paris defender to complete a 39-yard TD reception from Trey Deaton. Stubblefield’s two-point run following that score tied the game at 35-all with 6:53 to play.
On Paris’ next play from scrimmage, Nick Johnson almost got a first-down catch off a ball tipped by Bracken County junior Logan Teegarden. However, Bracken’s Tristan Bishop was also in the area and used one hand to strip the ball from Johnson and went down immediately, allowing the Polar Bears to begin their go-ahead drive with 6:39 left.
“I snagged it and I just got down to give us the ball,” Bishop said. “It completely changed the game. You just gotta fall. You gotta know when to fall down.”
Paris wasn’t finished, however. Aaron Maggard’s fourth TD pass of the game went to Jekobi Wells with 44 seconds left, pulling the Greyhounds to within 43-41. However, Maggard’s two-point pass bounced off the hands of his intended target.
It was the first regular-season home loss for the Greyhounds (4-3) since Oct. 10, 2014. They led 14-7 at halftime, Bracken’s lone score coming as Appleman hurled himself over the offensive line for a TD as time expired.
“We had the momentum thanks to our hogs,” Appleman said of the team’s offensive front.
The teams traded scores early in the third quarter before Paris again took a two-possession lead, 28-13, after Wells returned a punt 59 yards.
Bracken star Tad Fisher, who entered the game as Class A’s third-leading rusher statistically, trimmed the lead to 28-19 with 2:12 left in the third. Paris fumbled the kickoff inside its own 20-yard line, setting up a short Polar Bears drive resulting in Appleman’s second TD and a 28-27 score heading into the final period. Maggard completed a 37-yard TD throw to Johnson to extend Paris’ lead to 35-27 with 10:37 to play.
“We had some plays that came back to haunt us in the long run,” Paris Coach Brian Washington said. “But the guys did come out and looked good early.”
The Polar Bears (5-1), whose program began in 2003, have matched their best start in school history and could exceed it when they go to Bishop Brossart next week.
“It’s gonna be another hard-nosed, competitive district game for us,” Bracken County Coach Michael Sizemore said. “We’re hoping that we can build off this win and do something special here at Bracken County.”
Paris, meanwhile, welcomes another top-10 Class A school to town next week in its second and final home game of 2016. Nicholas County, ranked fifth, mimproved to 7-0 after routing Berea 59-8 on Friday night.
“It comes back to how do you respond to these types of games,” Washington said. “Adversity happens. That’s part of the game. How are we gonna respond now?”