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Blocked field goal late keeps Bulldogs from the upset as they fall 20-18 Friday; face Gervais on Thursday

COURTESY GRAPHIC  - Culver will face Gervais on the road March 18.The Culver Bulldogs had their chances on Friday, but came up just short as they fell 20-18 to the Jefferson Lions in Class 2A Special District II football action.

"Jefferson is a pretty good team," said Culver head coach Shea LIttle. "A couple of years ago they were 3A, and they have some tough kids, some kids 6-4 250, so it was good. Obviously we want to win, but we all talked about it and nobody was frustrated with the philosophy that we are going with"

That philosophy is to play the starters the first half, then substitute and make sure that the younger players get some playing time while the game is still meaningful.

The Bulldogs struck first on a six-yard Christian Mattson run in the first quarter. The extra point failed, but Culver led 6-0.

Jefferson got on the board in the second quarter on a punt return. The two-point conversion was good, and the Lions led 8-6. Jefferson scored again minutes later when they returned an interception for a touchdown. The conversion attempt failed, but the Lions still held a 14-6 lead late in the first half.

Culver took the ensuing possession and drove down the field, scoring with 25 seconds left in the half on an Anthony Hood pass to Logan Macy. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the two teams went into the half with the Lions leading 14-12.

Due to the short season and the lack of JV games, Little had determined that the Bulldogs are going to play their younger players during the second half regardless of the score.

And that's exactly what Culver did. Their substitutes played the third quarter — and according to Little held up well.

"From a coaching standpoint, it's a tough call whether to play everyone or to go after that win, but we all understand that this is a shortened football season and we are just happy that the kids have pads on," Little said. "I mean, it's a tough call: do you go after the win or let our young kids play, and again I just emphasized that it's a short season, it doesn't mean anything and they come to practice and work hard the same as the older kids so they need to get some playing time and, you know what, they did a great job."

Jefferson did score a third quarter touchdown, but other than that, Culver's substitutes more than held their own. The Bulldogs put their starters back in for much of the final quarter, and scored on a Mattson 6-yard run to bring the score to 20-18. Unfortunately, the two point conversion attempt failed again as the Lions held on for the win.

Culver had one more chance to win. Late in the game they moved the ball all the way inside the Jefferson 10 yard-line, and had the ball second and goal on the three. However, three penalties pushed the Bulldogs back, so they attempted a field goal.

"We missed a block and they blocked the field goal," Little said.

Following the game, Little said that he talked to some of the seniors about how they felt about playing the subs when they did.

"I was impressed with their response," he said. "They said, 'No coach, we totally understand, they need to play.' They even said 'we had plenty of opportunities to win that game and we didn't pull it off, so we are not frustrated at all.' That just validated that the kids are really coming together as a team and a family and wanting those young kids to play. They weren't sitting on the sidelines upset or down; they were cheering them on and getting jacked up, so it was good to see."

With the win, the Lions improved to 2-0, while Culver fell to 11. The Bulldogs are on the road again this Thursday when they travel to Gervais, 0-2, for a 5 p.m. game.

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