CARDINGTON — The Pirates did something all too familiar Friday night, playing hard but coming up short at the end.
“I love these kids. They give everything they’ve got. We’re just coming up a play short; it’s been a play short for weeks,” head coach Tod Brininger said following Cardington’s 20-14 KMAC loss to Fredericktown.
The two teams battled evenly through most of the first half, with a scoreless first quarter.
The hosts came out with a full-house backfield of quarterback Nate Hickman and running backs Ashton and Ayden Plowman and Joe Denney.
“We wanted to give our offensive line some confidence and push it down their throat. We did a good job with it and we went back to it a little bit later at times, and it wasn’t as dominant as it was.”
Cardington (1-7, 0-5) ran 71 offensive plays to the Freddies’ 47.
Fredericktown (4-5, 2-4) struck on a big play with quarterback Ben Mast hitting Xavier Mullins over the middle for a 76-yard touchdown with 5:56 to go before halftime. Kaid Carpenter found Mullins on the two-point conversion for an 8-0 advantage.
“We gave up a couple of plays we shouldn’t have given up — plays that we knew what they were going to do and we let them do it anyway. It was a hard-fought battle and that’s what I expected.”
The Pirates came back 4 minutes later when Denney took a draw play and went 46 yards for the score. Hickman’s run for two was stopped just short and it was 8-6 at halftime.
Denney wound up with 86 yards on 15 carries. Hickman added 52 yards on 18 trips. The Plowmans combined for 48 yards on 9 carries.
The second half began in a driving rain as both teams went three-and-out on their initial possessions.
A 10-play drive that began at their own 42 stalled at the Fredericktown 29 on a fourth down and five with an incompletion.
The Pirates opened it up with some short passes to the Plowmans and Kalin Briggs (3 for 20). Ayden had 6 catches for 46 yards and Ashton 3 for 30.
With 1:13 left in the third quarter Denney went in from 3 yards to tie the game at 14. The pass for two didn’t connect, however.
That followed a blocked punt that was recovered by Ashton Plowman at the Fredericktown 15-yard-line. Hickman also ended a Fredericktown second quarter drive with a diving interception.
Mistakes also hurt Cardington.
“We had some fumbles and put the ball on the ground a lot, which is very unlike us. I think we had six in the first half that hit the ground. We gotta hold onto the ball and it was dry.”
Fredericktown drove the ball downfield on 13 plays, capped by a Carpenter 1-yard run with 1:25 to play in the game to take a 20-14 lead.
Eli Huffman’s 28-yard kickoff return put the ball at the Freddies’ 39 with 56 seconds left.
Passes to Ayden Plowman for 23 and 5 yards, and Hickman’s 4-yard run moved the ball to the 8-yard-line before Cardington was stopped on a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Hickman completed 13-of-26 pass attempts for 97 yards.
For Fredericktown, Mast was 3-of-4 throwing for 77 yards. Teegan Ruhl had 56 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
“I gave them tomorrow (Saturday) off. I told them to start thinking about Mount Gilead.”
The Pirates host the rival Indians Friday night.
“Let this one hurt. This one should sting. This one’s on the coaching staff and this one’s on me,” Brininger said.
“We had chances. You can’t say we didn’t have chances. It was just a heartbreaker.”
Hickman and Brooke Clapham were chosen Homecoming King and Queen in pre-game ceremonies.