By Randy Coleman
North Jefferson News
LOCUST FORK — Locust Fork held off a late rally by J.B. Pennington to take a 20-17 victory at home Friday.
Josh Tawbush and Micah Stephens combined for 250 rushing yards and scored one touchdown each to pace the Hornet offensive attack.
The Hornets took an early 7-0 lead on Stephens 3-yard scoring jaunt, only to see Pennington need just one play to even the score as quarterback Brandon Butts found Jacob Washburn for a 52-yard catch and run. Kyle Hornbuckle and Fernando Zavala added their respective team's extra points to even the score at 7-7 just over two minutes into the game.
What appeared to be a high scoring shootout turned into a fumble- and penalty-filled first half that saw just one more scoring effort before halftime. Early in the second quarter after a short Tiger punt, the Hornets pushed 43 yards in four plays as Hornbuckle found Tawbush behind the Pennington defense for a 27-yard score, giving the Hornets 14-7 lead at the half.
The second half saw a continuation of drive-killing fumbles, interceptions, and penalties by both teams. Pennington's Butts intercepted a Hornbuckle throw to put the Tigers at the Hornets 13-yard line later in the third quarter, but the Hornet defense held the Tigers to a 29-yard Zavala field goal to cut the Hornet lead to 14-10 with 10:45 left in the game.
Two possessions later, the Hornets moved 50 yards in just three plays to seemingly put the game away, as Tawbush raced around right end from nine yards away for the score. Hornbuckle missed the extra point, but the Hornets had a seemingly comfortable 20-10 lead with just 4:46 remaining.
However, Butts began an aerial circus that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brenner Drain, and following Zavala's extra point it was 20-17 in favor of Locust Fork with 3:23 left.
After holding the Hornets to just one first down and forcing a punt, the Tigers took over at their own 20 with 1:37 left. Once again Butts took to the air, making one first down before the Hornet defense stopped the Tigers at their own 41 as the game ended.
Locust Fork had the superior ground attack, gaining 285 yards compared to a net loss of 18 yards for Pennington. But the Tigers’ passing game was on target for 242 yards, while the Hornets threw for just 88. Hornbuckle was 5-for-2 with two interceptions, the only two turnovers of the entire game.
Locust Fork (3-2, 1-2 region) travels to Crossville for a Class 4A, Region 6 clash next Friday.