It wasn’t just one calamitous play that went against Horseshoe Bend Friday.
Several big breaks, breakdowns and tricks handed its opponent, LaFayette, big yardage and points at critical junctures in a loss that seemed destined.
The Generals went on the road and suffered their fourth defeat in region play against the Bulldogs by a 42-21 margin, knocking them out of postseason competition with three games remaining on the schedule.
“It’s like I’ve told the boys, unfortunately too many times, it’s a handful of plays that are gonna decide a game,” Horseshoe Bend coach Jeremy Phillips said. “Tonight we just didn’t make enough plays, the big-time plays to pull it out.”
LaFayette’s strange path to victory began on the opening kickoff.
The Bulldogs’ return man ran it all the way back for a score, and Horseshoe Bend followed by throwing a pick six on its ensuing possession.
LaFayette led 13-0 without taking a single offensive snap.
“The score doesn’t really show the game, in all reality, to me,” Phillips said. “There were a lot of crazy plays that happened.”
Senior running back Gavin Brazzell capped off a long Horseshoe Bend drive with a rushing touchdown the next series, but the 13-6 game was made 20-6 on a seamless double reverse play from the Bulldogs to score a long touchdown via trick play.
Horseshoe Bend senior Holt Tidwell added another rushing score before halftime, which the Generals entered trailing just 20-13.
Problem was, LaFayette wasn’t done advancing the ball in bizarre ways.
Too deep in enemy territory to punt, the Bulldogs elected to go for a first down on fourth-and-20 in the second half, and a ball floated deep into the night sky by LaFayette’s quarterback was hauled in by one of his receivers and taken for a touchdown.
That wasn’t even the wackiest fourth-down play for LaFayette.
Up 28-13 and punting from its own 1-yard-line, the Bulldogs allowed pressure to reach their punter and prevent him from kicking the ball.
He broke three tackles in his own end zone and dashed 99 yards for a touchdown to put LaFayette up 35-13. Brazzell ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown, but the Bulldogs would score again to ice the game.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Phillips said. “I thought we executed our game plan. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Perhaps Horseshoe Bend could have stayed in the game, however, if it had converted in the red zone. On three separate drives the Generals punched the ball all the way down inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard-line, but on each of those occasions they failed to deliver the knockout blow for a touchdown.
Eliminated from the Alabama state playoff race, Phillips’ focus now shifts toward grabbing a few wins down the stretch and sending the team’s four seniors off in good fashion.
“I just want to finish strong for these seniors,” Phillips said. “We’ve got some winnable games left on the schedule and I know they want to go out with a good taste in their mouths. That’s something the team wants to do for them. Overall, we just want to get better and we want to win ball games.”
Horseshoe Bend resumes play against Ranburne Oct. 15.