Something had to give last Friday night. With Anna and Massac County both coming in winless at 0-2, someone's losing streak was going to end.
Unfortunately, the Pats are still winless as Anna held on to get the five-point win Massac County in a wild and wooly finish.
In a game of possessions, Massac had its chances and indeed had the last chance with a possession that started near mid-field with just under two minutes on the clock.
Back to the beginning -- A-J drew first blood and led 6-0 after one quarter. Massac was moving the ball at the end of the first quarter and struck pay dirt just after the change of ends. Massac's point after touchdown [PAT] kick was good and, for a brief time, the Pats had a lead.
But it only took a couple of minutes for Anna to stand knocking on Massac's door with a first and goal. Nate Baggot got in for the Wildcats at the 9:04 mark, and Anna had reclaimed the lead after a successful two point conversion at 14-7.
Anna capitalized on a Massac turnover when quarterback Carson Pengress moved the pile on short yardage for a touchdown. Another unsuccessful PAT attempt left the score at 20-7. Anna struck once more in the first half for a 28-7 lead and that old familiar feeling was creeping in again.
But Patriot quarterback Bruce Neill and fleet wide receiver Devin Scott hooked up on a long touchdown strike. Massac's PAT kick was good and the half ended on a big upswing for Massac.
Things turned quickly for Massac in the second half as the Wildcats were grinding out a drive, but Pengress fumbled the ball away. Jaylon Cruz recovered the loose ball and Baird, Dumpprope, Jackson and Thompson pounded out yardage on the ground. Thompson found the end zone with 1:56 in the quarter and after a two-point conversion Massac trailed 28-22, and the fight was on.
Anna controlled things for over five minutes until Baggot got loose again and scored what appeared to be the back breaker at the 7:37 mark. Another failed two-point conversion by Anna left the Patriots trailing 34-22 with hope fading.
But just when things looked really bad, Neill and Scott hooked up for the offensive play of the game when a Neill pass that looked severely underthrown found a streaking Scott who gathered it in with one hand, didn't break stride and zoomed to the end zone. PAT good! New ball game.
Massac caught a break when Anna's ensuing kick-off return was called back for a holding penalty. Facing an Anna third down and five yards to go with just over two minutes on the clock, Massac's defense, in the form of DJ Thompson, knocked the ball loose and recovered it.
With a short field, plenty of time and a powerful backfield, Massac and their fans were fired up. Thompson ripped off a nice gain on first down and it almost looked inevitable. But . . . Anna's defense got enough penetration to blow up Massac's next three plays and the final of 34-29 tells the sad tale.
Like I've said already, it's a process. The defense was better, especially in the second half. The running game is solid with a stable of capable backs and Anna was certainly not expecting Massac to throw it. The passing game wasn't pretty, but it was effective.
Now it's back to the grind stone as Massac has to travel to Murphysboro to take on an explosive Red Devils team this Friday night.