Republic overcame a big halftime deficit to tie the game in the final two minutes of regulation – but a missed extra point set up a season-ending loss in overtime at Branson, 33-27. It marked the second game in a row that Republic’s opponent scored a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game.
In overtime, each team gets the ball on its 25 yard line with a chance to score. Republic got the ball first, and after an incomplete pass, Lucas Hayes hit Claye White along the sideline for a nine-yard gain, setting up third-and-one. But the Tigers failed to pick up the first down on either of the next two plays, giving Branson its crack at the ball.
The Pirates faced a third-and-ten on their first series, but completed a pass for the first down, then scored two plays later on a run by Cristian Berumen to win the game. Berumen was the star of the night for Branson, rushing for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
Branson had jumped on top in the first half with touchdowns on its first two drives of the night. The first went 93 yards and the second went 60 yards. In between, Republic got a field goal by Marco Donjuan, and Branson led 14-3 late in the first quarter.
After another Branson touchdown made it 20-3, Republic finally got in the end zone for the first time after a nine-play, 61-yard drive. The extra point was no good, and Republic trailed 20-9.
At the end of that scoring drive, Hayes set a new school record for touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. His one-yard TD run was his 32nd touchdown overall of 2019 (22 rushing and 10 passing). That broke the old mark of 31 total touchdowns set by Kory Stout in 1995. Stout’s 20 touchdown passes are still a single-season high, and he had 11 rushing touchdowns that year.
Republic scored on its first drive of the second half, driving 77 yards on 11 plays and finishing with a six-yard touchdown run by Riley Sigman. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the score was 20-15 Branson.
After another Branson touchdown and extra point made it 27-15, the Tigers got another touchdown from Sigman with 8:31 remaining in the game to cut the Branson lead to 27-21, but missed another extra point.
Branson had a chance to seal the victory on its next drive, but on a 4th-and-inches deep in Republic territory, the Tiger defense held and forced a turnover on downs. From there, Republic marched 88 yards on 11 plays, scoring a touchdown to tie the game 27-27 with 1:21 remaining. Another missed extra point left the game tied.
Branson threatened to score on its final possession of regulation, but ran out of time.
After the game, coach Dustin Baldwin noted that the problems with the kicking game were uncharacteristic after Marco Donjuan had been a solid contributor all season, but came at a bad time. “Marco just doesn’t miss extra points, but he did tonight,” Baldwin said. “That cost us.”
Hayes finished with 178 passing yards on 16 completions in 22 attempts. He also rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries.
Sigman went out with a bang in his last game as a Tiger. Sigman finished with 207 rushing yards on 25 carries, including 158 yards in the second half to help lead the Republic comeback. He also caught three passes for 60 yards.
Josh Sterling carried the ball six times for 32 yards and also had four receptions for 27 yards. Claye White caught the ball three times for 21 yards, and Skyler Locke had a career-high three receptions for 23 yards in his final game. Gavin Walker caught three balls, also, for 47 yards.
Despite a difficult season that resulted in a 2-8 record, after the game, an emotional Baldwin had good things to say about his players.
“I told the kids at the end of the game, ‘You can say the coaches aren’t very good, or say we didn’t play very good, or we didn’t win many games. You can say whatever.’ But you know, they never quit, ever. They fought all year and they never quit. So I’m proud of them.”
Branson advances to play Carthage in the district semifinals next week.