By JOEL COLEMAN
ACKERMAN – The record books will forever show the Bruce Trojans defeated the Ackerman Indians 21-18 on Friday night.
The Indians will most likely always feel it was a game they truly won.
Bruce quarterback Davis Brown culminated a controversial final 15 seconds of play with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4 seconds remaining as the Trojans escaped Ackerman with the victory.
The time left for Brown to punch in his game-winning score might not have been there if not for what transpired moments before.
With 15 seconds left on a 2nd-and-goal play, the Ackerman defense stuffed Brown on a quarterback-keeper up the middle.
The Trojans had no timeouts remaining, so the clock continued to tick down until game officials stopped it in the process of spotting the ball.
“We didn’t think the clock should have stopped,” said Ackerman head coach Adam Dillinger. “We thought (the officials) gave Bruce an extra play because of the clock stopping.
“(The official) said one of our guys kicked the ball, but there’s a big pile (of players) there. Who knows who kicks the ball? I thought our guys played awful hard to have it taken away there at the end like that.”
Bruce head coach James Ray said the ending was fitting considering the history between the two former division rivals.
“Anytime Ackerman and Bruce gets together, it’s a lot of tradition there,” said Ray. “We’re not in the same region anymore, but it’s always a hard-fought battle, especially playing in (Ackerman). They play tough on their home field.
“We’re fortunate to come out with this win.”
Minutes before Brown’s touchdown, it looked as though it would be Ackerman celebrating at the game’s conclusion after the Indians put together an emphatic fourth-quarter comeback.
With the game tied at 7-7 coming out of halftime, Bruce (4-1) used a safety and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Donta Armstrong to go up 15-7 in the third quarter.
After the Armstrong score however, J.B. Long’s extra-point attempt was missed, keeping the Indians within one score.
Ackerman (2-3) took advantage early in the fourth quarter.
When the Indians defense forced a three-and-out, Bruce’s Cody Mcmahan went back to punt with the Trojans on their own 28-yard line.
Ackerman’s K’Tre Brown blocked the punt and Bonnes Brown recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown, bringing the Indians to within two at 15-13.
Ackerman then converted the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Later in the quarter, the Indians again came up with a big play defensively when Alex Foust forced a Bruce fumble and T.C. Hatchett recovered it, setting Ackerman up deep in Bruce territory.
While the Trojans defense held strong, Indians kicker Roman Ramirez drilled a 36-yard field goal, putting Ackerman up 18-15 with just 2:45 to play.
“(Ramirez) has done such a good job for us and he has worked his tail off,” said Dillinger. “He’s gotten to the point where he’s a go-to guy.
“(The field goal) was a big play for us. It wasn’t even a great snap or a great hold, but he drilled it.”
The Ramirez field goal wouldn’t hold up.
Bruce’s ensuing drive, which started at their own 44-yard line, ended up being the eventual game-winner.
After Brown’s go-ahead touchdown, Ackerman did get one last offensive opportunity from its own 38-yard line, but a last-chance hook-and-ladder play was unsuccessful as time expired.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Indians, who also saw senior running back K.J. Woods go down with an injury in the second quarter.
Woods never returned to the game.
Even with Woods out, Ackerman stayed in the game courtesy of a defense that made big play after big play.
“I was tickled to death with the effort they gave us,” said Dillinger of his defense.
Perhaps the Indians’ biggest defensive play came in the closing moments of the second quarter.
While each team put up a first-half touchdown – Bruce on a 4-yard Zay Armstrong run in the first quarter and Ackerman on a pass from quarterback Dakota Brasher to Cody Harris for 36 yards in the second quarter – the Indians entered the locker room at the half with momentum on their side after a goal-line stand left the Trojans a yard shy of taking a lead.
Faced with virtually the same scenario at the end of the game however, Bruce found a way to penetrate the Ackerman defense and leave the Indians stunned.
“I told (the team) I didn’t think we lost it,” said Dillinger. “I told them I thought we got it taken from us.
“This is a loss that we can build from though. We’re a better team now than we were last week and that’s the main thing.”