After pushing kickoff back an hour due to heat index and waiting through two delays due to the lights at Holmes going out, Beechwood was able to survive in a heated, physical contest 21-13, despite turning the ball over six times.
The Tigers fumbled the ball five times - which led to both Holmes' touchdowns - and were intercepted once. After the game standout running back Cameron Vocke pointed to his team's mindset as the reason for the offensive miscues.
"Lack of focus. There's no excuse for fumbling the football," Vocke said after the game. "Five fumbles I think it was… That's awful."
Holmes (1-1) scored first when Jamel Cutright picked up a fumble on a botched snap and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown. The converted extra-point made it 7-0 with 7:42 left in the first quarter.
It would be less than 30 seconds and only two plays later before Beechwood would tie the game up. Cameron Vocke returned the ensuing kickoff back to the Holmes' two and then ran it in for the touchdown on the next play to tie it up at 7-7.
--Postgame: Cameron Vocke, Beechwood
That's when the game started to get interesting.
Beechwood (2-0) looked like they were about to extend their lead when quarterback Taylor Davis hit Alex Brennan over the middle with nothing but green between him and the endzone for what would have been a 54-yard touchdown. However, right before Brennan crossed the goaline the ball squirted out of his hands and Holmes recovered on their own one.
After trying a quarterback keeper up the middle that was lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs took a shot downfield. Beechwood's Gage Erdman spoiled that plan though, when he intercepted quarterback Charles Knox's pass, a jump-ball intended for DaSean Peterson down the sideline. Vocke scored on the next play from 25 yards out on an impressive run to make it 14-7 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter got a little heated as both teams were involved in pushing and shoving after the play and there were lots of big hits on both sides.
Before halftime, Beechwood went on a long, time-eating drive and it looked as though their frontline and run game were wearing the Bulldogs out. As the Tigers moved into Holmes' territory, the lights toward the west endzone at Holmes shut off. It was the second time in two nights the problem occurred at Holmes' stadium as Conner and Holy Cross had the same problem on Thursday.
The lights came back on after about a 20-minute delay and when football resumed the Holmes' defense looked to have caught their second wind. The Bulldogs stuffed back to back running attempts before Beechwood coughed up another fumble to end the scoring threat. Holmes ran off the last few seconds of the half and went into the locker rooms trailing just 13-7 after recovering four fumbles in the first half of play.
"He said, 'Come out and play Beechwood football,'" Vocke said when asked what Coach Noel Rash told the team at halftime. "He didn't give any motivational speech because all week we practiced terrible and it showed out on the field. He can't motivate us anymore than he has so we had to motivate ourselves tonight."
Beechwood's defense continued to stifle the Holmes' offense in the second half and it looked like the Tigers might be ready to run away with the game midway through the third quarter. They marched straight down the field on runs up the middle and capped it off by a five yard touchdown run by Max Nussbaum.
The Holmes offense wasn't able to get anything going and would finish the night with under 100 yards total. They did cut into the Beechwood lead again though with 4:44 left in the third quarter when Greg Clemons picked up the fifth Beechwood fumble of the game and took it 67 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-13.
The fourth quarter was a stalemate. Both defenses bowed their backs and managed to shut each other down offensively. Beechwood had field position on their side and got close enough to attempt two field goals in the fourth quarter but both were missed - one wide left and the second wide right.
Beechwood sealed the win when they forced a turnover with just a minute to play and the Tigers were able to kneel the ball to kill the clock.
"The kids are learning a new system, we've got a new quarterback and we've got a lot of guys who haven't played... at least at the varsity level," new Holmes coach Terry Liggin said after the game. "You're going to have some inconsistency but the kids gave a great effort and continued to fight. We're going to get better and better."
Vocke was the only offensive star of the night as he finished with 11 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns. He had two momentum-changing plays with his kickoff return and his 25-yard touchdown run in the first half.
Beechwood will look to move to 3-0 when they host Holy Cross next week. Meanwhile, Holmes is set to welcome Simon Kenton.
*Written by: Rick Broering, TriStateFootball.com