Cloudy skies greeted the fans at Emory C. Lamb Stadium’s Frank S. Battle Field as Bartow and Fort Meade prepared for their annual meeting and the Miners came out on top with a field goal with 27 seconds left to play.
The Miners fought back in the second half to win the Highway 17 Bowl, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 25-7 in the final two quarters.
Bartow chose to kick off to start the game as both teams prepared to send their respective squads out on to the field. Bartow charged to the field first and the Miners broke through the banner as Hewitt Grant struck the ground with the pick to get things started.
Fort Meade scored on the opening kickoff.
Tobias Culpepper took the ball at the 5 and moved ahead to the 30. As he was being tackled, Culpepper fumbled and Ryan Fulse picked up the ball and ran 70 yards for the touchdown. The point after sailed wide right, but the Miners led 6-0 with only 19 seconds gone.
Bartow gained the ball at the 29 following a short kick. Tyreese Cruz added a brig gainer on his second carry, gaining 29 yards to move Bartow beyond midfield. A fumble on a pitch set the Jackets back six yards. Some short gains by Dimitri Leverett and Cruz led to a fourth and long. The Miners jumped offsides to set up a fourth and six. Cruz carried for nine has and a new set of downs and the ball was moved further down field with a defender called for a hit to the head. The ball was moved to the 12.
Jab ray Chisholm got his chance to move the ball forward with a pair of carries that got the ball in the shadow of the goal line.
Penalties back and forth by each time put the ball back at the one. Leverett faked the handoff and walked untouched into the end zone with 5:24 to play. Alex Montes kicked the ball from the hold of Troy Jones to give Bartow the lead.
Fort Meade went to the air on the first play, but quarterback Jay Smith thew too high for Malik Mills. A run failed to move the ball and a short pass to Ryan Fulse could gain only six. Miners punter Diego Maldonado helped the Miner cause by sending a 50 yard punt to put Bartow in business on the 18.
Bartow started off with a pair of runs by Cruz before Bartow was tagged for an illegal substitution penalty.
Leverett went to the air to find Tre Jordan who made a diving sideline catch for a 17-yard completion. Leverett was sacked and Bartow could not get out of the hole. A third down pass attempt by Leverett saw the Miners defense put on a strong rush, hitting the quarterback as he threw. Matt Martin came on to punt as time ran out in the first quarter.
Penalties showed up quick in the second quarter as the Miners were called for a false start before the first play was snapped. Sim tried to gain some ground for the Miners, but ended up losing a few yards.
Fulse was able to get those yards back, but fourth down came up quickly. Maldonado booted the ball away, but a good return by Devon McCoy put Bartow on the 48.
Leverett started the drive by carrying on the first two plays to add seven yards. Fort Meade jumped offsides, which moved the chains and gave Bartow some momentum. Cruz lost a yard and a deep pass intended for Martin couldn’t find the mark. Leverett did hook under with Jordan on an under route and the receiver stretched it out for an 18-yard gain.
A defensive penalty added five more yards as Bartow set up at the 14.
Cruz became the workhorse, taking three straight carries and netting another first down, this time from the three. A fumbled snap pushed Bartow back to the six, but Leverett made it academic, rolling right and scoring the Jacket touchdown. Montes was true with the extra point, stretching the Bartow lead to 14-6 with 5:30 still to go in the half.
Fort Meade took the kickoff and started to make serious inroads as Tyler King grabbed 11 yards on a run. Fulse gained seven and moved the chains by tacking on four more. King took the ball for seven and the drive stalled when Smith couldn’t find Malik Bighems and Fulse couldn’t move the pile to gain more yards. The Miners looked at fourth and three and chose to go for it.
Smith went looking for a receiver and found Malik Brown for 12 and a first down.
The drive stopped right then when King carried and coughed up the ball. John Kilpatrick of the Jackets outfought the pile to hand the ball to the officials with Bartow possession.
Cruz broke free for 15 yards and added an 11 yard pickup. Leverett pitched to Chisholm who fought forward for 12. Leverett looked down the left sideline for Devon McCoy, finding the receiver at the 3 for a 28-yard gain. Cruz went straight up the middle on the next play to add to Bartow’s lead. With 1:13 on the clock, the Montes extra point stretched the margin to 21-6 in favor of the visitors.
The kickoff tailed out of bounds, giving the Miners first possession at the 35. Smith hooked up with Tobias Culpepper on a pretty catch for 13. Fulse brought the running game back with an 11-yard carry.
An incompletion brought up second and 10. Fort Meade went for broke, sending Culpepper deep. Smith reached back and sent the ball downfield to his receiver, who pulled in the pass despite double coverage. When he hit the ground, he was in the end zone and the Miners were back in the hunt.
Maldonado made sure the extra point was meaningful, boosting the point total to 13 for the home team.
Bartow took the short kickoff with 38 seconds to play, keeping the ball on the ground. Chisholm ran right for no gain with Troy Jones getting his first carry and a gain of nine. Time expired with the scoreboard showing 21-13 Bartow.
Bartow took the kickoff to start the third quarter as Jordan hustled across the field from the 25 to the 47. Cruz brought the markers close with two successful plays, but he was stuffed on the third carry.
Bartow went for it on fourth down and Leverett threw a quick pass to Chase Matthews for six yards and a first down. Chisholm carried for a long gain, but the ball came back on a holding call. Leverett carried for four and then carried for 10. Cruz got the attention of the Miners defense who stopped the Jacket runner on successive plays. Montes tried a 44-yard field goal, but a low snap made it difficult. Jones put the ball down, but the kick was high and short. Fort Meade took possession at the 20.
A quick three and out brought Maldonado out to punt and a very short kick rolled dead at the 26, only seven yards from the line of scrimmage. Cruz carried to open the drive with Jones getting the next two carries and a first down. Leverett faked to Jones and drew back for a pass to McCoy who fought to get possession. With 3:29 to play in the third quarter, the Montes extra point changed the scoreboard to 28-13 Bartow.
Fort Meade came back on quickly. King boosted the drive with a 20 yard gain. After a Miners false start, Smith connected with a streaking Culpepper who dashed the distance after catching the pass to complete a 65-yard touchdown pass. Smith added a two-point conversion on a pass to Brown and it became a seven point game at 28-21 with 2:29 to play in the third.
Bartow kept the ball on the ground and chewed up the clock, leading into the fourth quarter. Leverett found Jordan early in the quarter for a first down, but the drive stalled. A swarming Miners defense put Leverett down in a sack that lost nine yards, followed by yet another that put Bartow back into punting formation. Fort Meade got the ball and a chance to tie the game at the 30. Smith tossed to Mills for a short gain. Isham Alexander got his first carry for a pair and Smith had a five yard completion. Alexander added another run, but the drive bogged down. Facing fourth and six, Smith kept the ball and scampered for eight. The first down set up a quick pass and six yards. King took the handoff and raced down the sideline for 37 yards and the tying touchdown. Maldonado’s extra point completed the comeback , leading to a 28-28 tie with 5:05 showing on the clock.
Bartow watched the ball sail into the end zone, giving the Jackets possession at the 20. A pass to McCoy bounced off his chest and a quick pass to Chisholm set up fourth and short. Bartow could not get the play off in time and ended up with a fourth and six. The pass attempt missed on the connection. Fort Meade inherited the ball just 25 yards from the goal line. Fulse went on a run, but fumbled the ball. Quick thinking by the Miners’ Malik Brown kept the ball in possession of the home team. As the clock was winding down inside two minutes, Fort Meade looked at third and short with 1:20 to play. Smith got back the yards lost after a false start penalty. Fort Meade looked at fourth down on the seven and sent in Maldonado for a 24-yard field goal,attempt. The kick sailed true and Fort Meade grabbed a 31-28 lead with 27 seconds left in the game.
Bartow’s last gasp came when Bartow moved the kickoff to the 25. Leverett found Matthews for 16 yards and the clock stopped at 13 seconds. A completion to Jordan got 10 and the clock was on single digits. Bartow took its last time out and the fans on each side of their field rallied their teams. Leverett threw high to the sidelines out of bounds and it came down to the last play. A long pass fell incomplete as the game ended with Fort Meade beating Bartow 31-28.
Fort Meade stays home to meet Berkeley Prep next week. Bartow returns home to face Kathleen in its homecoming game.
The Miners are 4-1 while the Jackets even off their record at 2-2.