With the crisp, cool conditions last night, the Bartow Yellow Jackets hosted the Winter Haven Blue Devils in a key district match-up. The final regular season home game for Bartow was a must-win and the fate was in their hands. The night was also senior night with the players on the squad honored before the game, also with band members and cheerleaders.
While Bartow had the ball first, it was Winter Haven who put the first points on the board. The Jackets’ drive gained only 5 yards and set up an Alex Montes punt. Winter Haven used a lot of running plays, highlighted by Adam Lane’s 23-yard sweep and used Bartow’s three offsides penalties to drive to the end zone. The scoring plunge came from Lane who carried from a yard out. The extra point put the Blue Devils on top 7-0 with four minutes gone.
Starting on their own 20, Bartow managed one first down before kicking it away. The same thing happened for Winter Haven and they had their first punt of the night. The Jackets managed no positive yards and Montes punted for the third time in the quarter.
The Bartow defense came up big, highlighted by a Freddie Stevenson sack on third down. As time ran out in the first quarter, Bartow had the ball and was utilizing the hurry-up offense to capture momentum. Quarterback Dimitri Leverett hit Jeramy Williams to move the chains. A Leverett keeper gained 21 and moved the Jackets into enemy territory. The drive stalled and fourth down loomed. The churning effort of the runner pushed the pile ahead to gain a new set of downs. Bartow went to the air and Leverett found Roy’Qies Graham in the end zone for a
23-yard TD strike. The Montes extra point at 8:42 knotted the game at 7-7.
On the third play of the next possession, the Winter Haven quarterback threw downfield and Vontarius West stepped in front of the receiver. With the ball in his hands, West scampered 67 yards, breaking tackles and not stopping until the end zone. The extra point was blocked and Bartow had scored 13 points in 94 seconds. The home team led 13-7 with 7:08 to play in the half.
Winter Haven opened their drive on the 37 and used up 10 plays to regain the lead. The touchdown came on a 10 yard pass with 2:53 to go. The extra point made it 14-13 and Bartow would get one more shot before halftime. Their time with the ball was short, as a three-and-out situation only used 52 seconds. Winter Haven took a time out to preserve time before Bartow kicked. Montes fielded the low snap, but his knee touched the ground and Winter Haven got the ball at the 2. Interestingly, defenders clearly left before the snap, but there was no call. Winter Haven scored an apparent touchdown, but a holding call wiped it out. West was injured on the play and came out of the game, leavings defensive mates in charge to hold off the Blue Devils. From the 13, Winter Haven’s Luke Borders found his tight end who rumbled free for the score. The extra point stretched the lead to 21-13 with a minute to play.
Bartow’s drive brought the crowd alive and it looked like something could happen. A pass to the end zone was incomplete and a second attempt resulted in a Winter Haven interception. The Devils took a knee to hold the halftime lead 21-13.
It didn’t take long for Winter Haven to come knocking. Adam Lane has a pair of double digit gains with Bartow becoming their own worst enemy by giving Winter Haven more yardage due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. At the 5, Winter Haven was called for delay, but Bartow jumped offsides, the sixth time the Jackets encroached before the snap. Lane’s run took it to the one before Borders used the quarterback sneak to score. The kick for the extra point was true, giving Winter Haven a 28-13 lead only a minute and a half into the third quarter.
West gave Bartow a good starting spot at their own 47. Using the hurry up, Bartow was able to chew up ground and work inside the 5. Penalties began to stall the drive until Leverett threw a strike across the middle and Williams waltzed into the end zone. Montes capped the drive with his extra point and Bartow had answered. The game stood at Winter Haven 28, Bartow 20 with 7:01 left in the third.
Winter Haven looked they were ready to answer the touchdown, adding some big gainers in the air. The ground game faltered to set up a fourth down at the 32 and they faced a decision. Their run got the first down and kept the drive alive. Bartow’s John Kilpatrick batted down a pass attempt and Winter Haven had to try another conversion, but this one was not successful. Bartow took over with a mission. Facing their own third and long, a Leverett to Williams pass got most of it and the fourth down play got the rest, Williams again on the receiving end. The drive stayed alive through the end of the quarter and the teams switched ends. With a first and 10 from the 41, Bartow was trying to get in position to close the gap. On the first play of the quarter, Leverett threw a screen to West, who went the distance at 11:47. Bartow was forced to go for a two-point conversion to tie. Leverett could not break free and was sacked. The score stood at 28-26 Winter Haven.
On their fourth play, Winter Haven went to the air and it was a mistake. West took the ball away. Bartow had the ball and a chance to take the lead. Stevenson carried on third and short and picked up 20. Leverett hit Dwayne Daughtry, who was dragged down by his face mask, moving the ball to the 15. Leverett found Malik Mills at the 4. Stevenson carried, but fumbled and Winter Haven took over with 5:53 on the clock.
Bartow will close its 2012 season at Lake Wales next Friday.