By Chad Robert Snyder
Pilot staff writer
The Azalea football Bruins traveled to North Bend Monday afternoon, Oct. 13, for two games versus the Bull-Pups' seventh and eighth grade teams.
The seventh grade squad, after losing their starting tailback in the first quarter, battled back from a 22-point halftime deficit, but came up inches short in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter for their first loss of the season.
The eighth graders also narrowly missed a win, 21-14 in their game.
The seventh graders came out flat according to Head Coach Tony Baron.
"The bye week really set us back, both mentally and physically," he said. " They just lost their intensity with a week off."
The Bruins also lost RB Chandler Dodd to an apparent leg injury early in the first quarter, further debilitating the offense.
As a result, the Bruins allowed 16 unanswered point to open the game. Baron said they made mistakes on both sides of the ball in the first half, leaving them to attempt after comeback after getting down 28-6 at halftime.
Good things began to happen for the boys when the third quarter commenced.
"It was a completely different game in the second half," Baron said. "We were back to our old commanding way."
It was the Bruins' turn for an unanswered streak, running up 14 on North Bend's defense.
RB Mike Pendland provided the scoring with two physical TD runs.
The Bruins were moving the ball effectively late in the fourth quarter. After a failed third down attempt, and the clock showing only three minutes remaining, the seventh grade team had one final shot.
With an imposing fourth and six, they entrusted the ball to Pendland. After a hard run behind exceptional blocking by the offensive line, Pendland came up literally inches short and the Bruins turned the ball over on downs.
As the precious final seconds ticked away, the Bruins were given a gift when North Bend immediately put themselves in a fourth and long situation. North Bend picked up the first, however, and were able to chew up the remaining clock, squeaking away with the win 28-20.
Baron said the boys showed him something in the second half.
"I am really proud of the team for not giving up," he said. "They battled and fought back, displaying a lot of character."
The eighth grade team kept the game competitive as well, only to lose the tantalizingly close contest.
Cole Hannon scored a TD on an impressive 35-yard run. Bradley Austin registered their other points, scrambling 20 yards on a QB keeper bootleg play.
The seventh grade team loaned some players to the eighth graders for the game, including Pendland, Jesse Carson and Jessica Yock.