DEXTER - Gosnell's defense picked the perfect time to make its only defensive stop of the second half against the Dexter Bearcats Friday night.
With 53 second remaining in the game, the Pirates stopped Dexter's Alex Becker short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt and secured a 34-32 road win over the Bearcats at Charles Bland Stadium.
Dexter's attempt to tie the game came after a 35-yard pass from quarterback Kyle Espy to Derek Roberts capped a big-time three-play 65-yard scoring drive that started with 1:13 remaining on the game clock.
"Luckily after tonight we won't see another team that throws the football until the playoffs," Gosnell coach Brian Sims said, complimenting Dexter's passing attack after the game. "We didn't really stop them (Dexter), but we stopped them when we had to.
"Our brand of football is to hold the ball and not let the other team have it," Sims continued. "We were not prepared for them (Dexter). They've been running the ball and some of their spread sets they had not shown on films and we had to adjust at half time. That was my fault, I just wasn't prepared for it."
The game boiled down to Dexter's air assault against Gosnell's ground attack. The Pirates rolled up 412 rushing yards (no pass attempts), while the Bearcats racked up 397 total yards, 285 through the air.
Gosnell's punishing ball-control ground attack, was countered by Dexter's quick strike aerial show and resulted in a huge time of possession difference. The Pirates had the ball for 65 offensive plays and a 34:14 time of possession, while Dexter ran 36 plays and had the ball for only 13:47.
"I felt like their offense basically controlled for defense all night long," Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said. "Any time you keep the football for 34 minutes of a football game, then you're going to have a chance to score more points than your opponent and that's what they did to us."
"We were bad on first down tonight," Pixley continued. "They were getting way to many yards on first down. We just didn't do a good enough job of stopping them on offense.
"Their offensive line is huge, obviously, and they did a good job of using them the right way," he added of the tricky double winged-T offensive set. "Basically their offense just pushed it down our throat. That's what their offense is about. Basically they made one more play than we did and my hats off to them."
The one play Pixley could have been referring to came late in the first half with Dexter leading 7-6. With 27 second remaining before half, the Bearcats had held the Pirates to a fourth and seven at the 50 yard line. After trying to draw the 'Cats off sides, the Pirates went into a punt formation but faked the kick. Through some razzle dazzle they got the ball to Trimaud Clarke who raced around the left corner and scurried untouched for a 50-yard touchdown. Mario Young's two point run left Dexter staggered going into the half, trailing 14-7.
"That play comes from 'ole Bobby Bowden," Sims said of the fake punt play that fooled the Dexter defense. "We stick in between the guys legs, but he went a little too fast. He's supposed to wait a five count and let everybody run down field. But its hard to wait with everybody coming at you, and that kid (Clarke) can run and he took it to the house."
Gosnell was successful on six-of-seven fourth down conversions during the game.
Dexter regrouped at half and came out determined to run the football.
The 'Cats but together a opening drive that covered 64 yards in five plays and tied the game at 14-all after the successful point after attempt.
Alex Becker, who was held to zero yards the first half, collected 48 yards on the second half opening drive that was capped by an Espey-to-Roberts pass good for the final 15 yards and the six points.
Becker finished with three touchdowns and 120 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
Espey finished the night connecting on 13 of 20 pass attempts for 285 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Roberts continued to rack up receiving yards, hauling in eight balls for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Another turning point in the game came midway through the fourth quarter. After Dexter and Gosnell had traded touchdowns and with the Pirates leading 22-20, The Bearcats defense was holding strong and had the Pirates facing fourth and two from their own 19-yard line.
"That was a huge play," Pixley said of a 81-yard touchdown run by Pirate Mario Young when Gosnell opted to go for the first down. "We were fired up and the kid just got away. How he got away I don't know until you watch film.
Young finished with a game-high 219 rushing yards on 30 attempts and three touchdowns.
"We played the same defense this year, same as we did last year," Pixley said. "We executed better last year compared to this year and Gosnell beat us.
"But I am proud of the offense," he added. "Every time Gosnell scored we came back and answered. A extra point here, a two point conversion there... We dropped a touchdown pass and we had a pass stripped from us going into the end zone. That's a 14 point swing right there.
"Maybe the score could have been different, but we just have to get better and get ready for Sikeston now," he concluded.
The 65 rushing plays by Gosnell resulted in a "smash mouth" style of football that had the Bearcat defender bunched in tight to the line of scrimmage and produced some eye-opening tackle numbers.