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Tigers drop the ball
S Jennings
Steven Jennings looks for a way around.


Entering Friday night’s key Region 4-3A matchup in Baxter, the DeKalb County Tigers controlled their own destiny.


Despite having one regional game remaining against Cannon County on Oct. 30, a victory over the Upperman Bees would have brought home the Tiger’s first Region Championship in history. With both teams sitting atop the region’s standings 4-0, the winner would emerge as the front-runner to take home the coveted hardware at the end of the season.


In front of the large crowd, the Tigers played well early on. The Tigers hit pay-dirt on their second possession when quarterback Steven Jennings connected with receiver Christian Pruitt on a 58-yard strike that put DeKalb on the board first.


A failed two-point conversion attempt put the score at 6-0 with just 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter. But then, Upperman scored 28 unanswered points to send DeKalb back home to Smithville with the disappointing 28-6 loss that had the Tigers’ faithful dazed and confused.


DeKalb’s defense, which saw a total of 72 plays, played well enough to win, but their Achilles heel was allowing the big play. Two of Upperman’s four scores came on the Bee’s first play of their drive.


After Upperman took a 7-6 lead on a 17-play 68-yard drive that consumed 6:27 minutes, the Tigers’ offense went three-and-out, putting a tired defense back onto the football field. Taking advantage, the Bee’s offense overwhelmed the Tigers’ defense when receiver Ben Guffey took the football around the right side for an 88-yard scamper that widened Upperman’s lead 14-6 with just 2:37 remaining in the second quarter.


On their ensuing possession, quarterback Steven Jennings led the Tigers down the field to the Bee’s 32-yard line. However, the drive stalled on the ninth play, when Jennings’ pass was intercepted at the Bee’s five-yard line with 19 seconds remaining in the first half.


On their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, the Bee’s offense struck again. This time Daylen Watts’ 58-yard dash to the end zone stung the Tigers beyond repair.


The final score of the night came at the 5:34 mark of the fourth quarter.


Upperman’s Austin Butler capped a nine-play, 62-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach for the Tigers. With their confidence shaken, the Tigers’ offense struggled in the second half, totaling just 41 yards.


After four consecutive three-and-outs and trailing 28-6, the Tigers’ offense began to move the football, picking up three first-downs. However, on the eleventh play the drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion attempt.


Junior quarterback Steven Jennings, who either passed or ran the football on 48 of 52 offensive plays for the Tigers, accounted for 220 of DeKalb’s 228 total yards.


Not helping their cause, the Tigers’ receiving corps had six dropped passes, in three of which the receiver was wide open and could have scored at critical points in the game.


The Tigers will now turn their attention to the winless Cannon County Lions, who will travel to Smithville Friday night for the regular season finale. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.


Tiger Pride!