None of the leads held for long.
And when South kicker Jon Parker split the uprights for a 29-yard field goal as time expired, the Blue Devils captured a thrilling44-42 come-from-behind win to end the Kicking Mules' hopes for an undefeated season.
“I knew I was going to make it,” Parker said, of his game-winning field goal. The kick capped an eight-play, 65-yard drive for South (8-4).
South's march followed a 16-play, 74-yard scoring drive by the Mules that gave Bedford a 42-41 lead. It was capped by fullback Jon Shepherd's nine-yard touchdown run around left end with 2:53 left on the clock.
Yet, the Mules (11-1) probably should have never been in need of a late fourth-quarter drive if they had not uncharacteristically committed four turnovers. Two fumbles in the second half proved critical. South linebacker Jeffrey Blazoff recovered both and returned them 50 and 16 yards, respectively, for TDs.
The latter put the Blue Devils ahead, 41-35, their first lead of the game.
“We can't give them [four] turnovers,” Bedford coach Jeff Wood said. “Turnovers killed us.”
Bedford quarterback Jared Kujawa experienced his most difficult game of the playoffs.
On Bedford's last possession, Kujawa directed the Mules on a go-ahead scoring drive capped by Shepherd's second TD run of the night.
Unfortunately, Bedford left too much time for South to work into field goal range for Parker.
“We came back and scored that touchdown, but it wasn't enough at the end,” Kujawa said.
“We made too many mistakes.”
The thick fog that covered the field for most of the first quarter didn't hinder the Mules.
Kujawa put the Mules in front 7-0 when he broke loose on a 61-yard touchdown run with 9:09 in the first quarter.
He capped a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive with his TD romp.
After Bedford forced South to punt on its first possession, Mules running back Erik Jones (18 carries for 144 yards) took a handoff from Kujawa inside their own five-yard line and broke to the outside and took off on a 97-yard TD run to give the Mules a 14-0 lead with 5:41 to play.
But the Blue Devils answered with two straight scores to make it 14-14.
South QB Benjamin Fry (15-for-25, 240 passing yards) found Victor Mattison (8 catches, 107 yards) for a three-yard touchdown completion with 50 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Parker set up the Blue Devils' second scoring opportunity when he intercepted a Kujawa pass inside the Mules' 30-yard line.
South running back Andrew Pytel finished off a five-play, 28-yard scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run to even the score with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter.
The Blue Devils came out in the second half and marched 86 yards on 10 plays with Fry capping the drive with a six-yard keeper for a score with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. Jones finished off the 10-play, 70-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to give Bedford a 35-21 lead with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. It was the third time in the game the Mules held a two-touchdown advantage.
Pytel scored his second two-yard TD run and South trailed Bedford 35-28 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6302.