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Early Indian River lead is too much for Fork

With icy frost covering the field to illustrate the frigid night, the King’s Fork varsity football team played their final away game of the year Friday at Indian River, dropping the match 27-17 but looking forward to closing out the season next week at home against Lakeland.

&uot;It’s backyard brawl number two,&uot; said Bulldogs’ head coach Cecil Phillips about the impending rival affair. &uot;It’s going to be one heck of a ball game, and we just have to be prepared.&uot;

Against the Braves, King’s Fork watched the home team drive their opening possession to the end zone on the strength of the Braves’ passing game, going 4-for-4 for 36 yards in the air.

The Bulldogs tried to respond with their characteristic ground assault but were stopped cold by the IR defense. After the Bulldogs’ opening three-and-out, the Braves received the punt and launched a 79-yard pass to the end zone for a quick two-touchdown lead.

On the second KF drive, quarterback Sha’ka Miller connected with Michael Mason for 26 yards to midfield but the team couldn’t capitalize on the gain.

The Miller-Mason duo combined for seven catches and 101 yards. Miller was 2-for-8 in the air for the first half and 11-for-29 for the game, while IR found passing success by going 6-for-10 in the first half.

KF held the Braves to 3-for-9 on pass attempts in the second half.

In the beginning of the third quarter, KF finally lit up their side of the scoreboard on an interception by senior Donte Long deep in Braves territory on the 19 yard-line that set up a 45-yard field goal from Kurt McIntyre. To answer, the Braves returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown; the extra point was blocked, but the damage stood at 20-3.

Midway through the fourth, KF moved to within a first down at the IR 11 only to relinquish the ball on downs. Starting from the shotgun position in the end zone, the Braves’ quarterback botched a handoff forcing the running back to cover the ball for a King’s Fork safety.

Down 27-5, the Bulldogs came to life with just under five minutes to play in the contest. Starting with the ball near midfield, a series of successful runs got the offense to the four yard-line, allowing Miller to sneak up the gut for a touchdown, 27-11. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bulldogs were given another opportunity to score with under a minute to play after good clock management forced a Braves’ punt.

Two completions to Javares Lazenby got the ball to the IR 2, where Miller ran another sneak up the gut for the final play of the game, cutting the final gap to 27-17.

The officiating of the game was marred by an incident in the waning moments of the opening half, as Long appeared to sack the IR quarterback for a 12 yard loss and strip the ball for a fumble, but the play was ruled an incomplete pass after a long referees’ deliberation, to the dismay of the Bulldog fans.

With their run game locked up this week, King’s Fork hopes nevertheless to beat Lakeland on the ground in both teams’ final game of the season on Thursday. To do so, though, the Bulldogs must overcome Friday’s loss that saw them miss two opportunities in the red zone and convert only 2 of 13 third-downs.

&uot;We have to go out with a bang,&uot; Miller, a senior, said about his upcoming final high school game. &uot;We have to go out with our heads high.&uot;