NEWTOWN – The Burch Bulldogs took advantage of two late turnovers to defeat the Gilbert Lions 24-8 to win the Mingo County middle school football championship Thursday night at Buck Harless Stadium.
The title game was played in front of a big crowd on a warm Indian summer night on the campus of Mingo Central High School.
It was the first county championship since 2001 for Burch Middle School. They also avenged an earlier season loss to Gilbert, who came into the game with a perfect 8-0 record. Burch ends the season at 7-2.
The first half was a defensive struggle.
Burch hit pay-dirt with :45 second left in the first quarter when quarterback Jeremy Dillon broke free on a keeper and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. Dillon also ran in for the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Lions threatened to score in the second quarter, however Burch came up with a big goal line stand. They took over on their own 2-yard line. Unable to get a first down, the Dogs were forced to punt.
The short kick gave Gilbert excellent field position on the Burch 26 yard line. On their second play from scrimmage Lion quarterback Hunter Lester hit Travis Coangelo, who made a great leaping catch, on the 1-yard line.
Then on the next play Lester scored on a 1-yard plunge with no time left on the clock. The Lion signal caller bulled his way in for the 2- point conversion and the two teams went into the dressing room at the half tied at 8-8.
The third quarter continued to be a defensive battle between the two top seeded teams in the county.
Late in the quarter Burch’s Andrew Dingess stripped the ball from a Gilbert back to give his team possession heading into the final quarter.
Three plays later Joe Hunt scored on a 17-yard run for the Bulldogs. Hunt ran in for the conversion to give Burch the 16-8 lead.
Gilbert got a break when they were unable to get a first down and they were forced to punt. But, a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Lions a first down and new life. They had the football right on the 50-yard line.
However, Dalton Sheppard came up with a big interception and ran it back for another Bulldog score with 3:24 left in the game. Keebo Cunningham caught the 2-point conversion from Dillon to give Burch a 24-8 lead.
Burch was able to get the ball back and run out the clock and bring home the big trophy.
Gilbert had 157 yards of total offense, 133 on the ground and 24 passing. Burch ended up with 153 yards of offense, 148 on the ground and the rest through the air.
Dillon led the Dogs with 87 yards rushing, while Hunt had 86. Caleb Lester led Gilbert with 51 yards rushing.
Gilbert is coached by Jared Lester. The Lions ended the season with a fine 8-1 record.
Burch is coached by Joey Evans and assisted by Melvin Cunningham. They ended the year with a 7-2 record.
Score by quarters:
GMS … 0 8 0 0 – 8
BMS … 8 0 0 16 - 24