LYNCHBURG, Tenn. – The Moore County Raiders have but two games remaining to dig themselves out of a deep hole that they continue to slide back into.
Needing a victory to keep their Class A playoff hopes alive, the Raiders fell short for the second straight District 9-A contest, as they lost to rival Huntland 21-11 on Friday night.
Now Moore County is in a must-win situation as they travel to Community this week and then host Eagleville in the regular season finale on Oct. 24. Neither will be easy. Community is 0-7, and has won only twice in its last 17 games. But one of those victories was a one-point win over the Raiders in Lynchburg a year ago.
If the Raiders can get off their three-game schnide and beat the Vikings, Eagleville awaits. The Eagles are a .500 team coming off a bye week and appear to be getting better as the season progresses.
The Raiders can’t make any such boast.
Since opening with a pair of victories over subpar opponents, Moore County (3-5 overall, 1-3 District 9-A) has dropped five of its last six. The Raiders haven’t been able to hang on to the football, struggle to stop big plays and continue to shoot themselves in the foot.
“We just have to go back to work,” said first-year head coach Jeremy Austin. “I think our kids just have to play better all way around. They’ve (allowed) big plays on offense and defense. We have to find a way to start playing better.”
The Raiders were already playing with their backs against the wall. But against an improved Huntland (6-1, 3-0) team, the response was slight at best.
Moore County allowed the Hornets to take the ball 73-yards in just 3 minutes, 16 seconds to score on their opening possession. The visitors never trailed after that.
MCHS answered with a 21-yard field goal and the Raiders defense did just enough to keep the game tight. Moore County’s Zac Creson intercepted a pass, Huntland missed a field goal attempt wide left and the Raiders snuffed out a fake on fourth down from midfield.
But the offense was still in a funk throughout the first half as the Raiders gained just 19 yards total. And once Moore County managed to gain some momentum in the second half, a pair of big plays by Huntland’s Kobe Foster thwarted any hopes the Raiders had at getting back to .500 in district play.
Foster scored on an 87-yard touchdown catch from Evans Ray in the third quarter to give Huntland a 14-3 lead. And with 9:54 left in the game he intercepted Moore County QB Spencer Reese and returned the ball 28 yards for another score, putting the Hornets ahead 21-11.
“There’s times on both sides where we played good ball,” added Austin. “But no matter which way you split the pie, we didn’t make enough plays.
“As coaches, we have to come in (Monday) and see if we can put together a gameplan to try to see if we can win a game.”
Reese, who finished with 83 yards rushing and 77 yards passing, scored Moore County’s lone touchdown, a 12-yard run with 1:15 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion trimmed the lead to three points, 14-11.
But after getting a defensive stop to force a punt, Moore County was whistled for a needless personal foul penalty. The result moved the Raiders from midfield back to the 25-yard line. Two plays later, Foster intercepted Reese for a touchdown, killing any momentum the Raiders had gained.
Ray finished with 205 yards passing for Huntland, while D.J. Taylor added 87 yards rushing.
Huntland entered Friday’s game ranked eighth in the state. The Hornets were ranked No. 5 when the Associated Press poll was released this week.
—By ROBERT HOLMAN, Editor & Publisher