BIG STONE GAP — Beating Powell Valley three years in a row isn’t something that many football teams can say they’ve accomplished.
J.I. Burton didn’t expect it to be easy. And it wasn’t.
A 35-yard field goal by Will Godsey with 3:01 left to play finally gave the Raiders the safety cushion they needed for a 30-26 Lonesome Pine District victory over the Vikings at Bullitt Park on Friday night.
“Was it my longest? It’s my only one,” said the Burton placekicker and punter, who’d missed two point-after kicks in the first half.
“It feels pretty good. I’ve been practicing my kicks every day after practice.”
After Godsey’s kick put the Vikings up 30-20, Powell Valley fans started filtering out of the stadium.
They should have kept their seats.
Vikings quarterback Cedric Mitchell carried the fight to the bitter end, on the next series scrambling for 23 yards on two carries and airing it out to Malcom Pinkston, who shivered his way past Burton defensive back Devin Talley for a 48-yard touchdown with 2:12 left in the game.
“He was covering everything pretty well. I just found an open window. Cedric hit me and I just gave him a little stiff-arm and kept running,” said Pinkston, who rushed for 77 first-half yards out of a split-back set beside his twin brother, Myron.
Burton quarterback Ethan Stewart, who also played in the Norton secondary, intercepted Mitchell’s subsequent 2-point conversion pass attempt intended for Andrew Meador.
The Raider offense hogged the ball for almost two minutes before giving it up on downs at the Viking 41-yard line. Mitchell got in four more snaps, but was denied the reprise home-run throw.
Stewart — who rushed for 86 yards, including three touchdown sneaks — was thrilled to get out of Big Stone with the win.
“My dad said it best — it was a war out there. It was crazy,” said Stewart, whose team trailed 20-12 at the half and didn’t lead until he broke the plane from the 2-yard line with 8:05 left to play.
“We just kept having to claw back. We bowed our neck, showed character and battled through adversity.”
That adversity included Stewart’s self-described “bonehead throw” picked off by Dakota Cantrell at the Raider 10-yard line to end Norton’s opening possession.
Three snaps later, Mitchell, who finished with 160 yards passing, hit Delmas Lawson with a 10-yard TD toss for the 7-0 lead on John Michael Allen’s PAT kick.
Stewart contributed 42 yards on three carries in Burton’s answering scoring drive. But after Stewart’s 1-yard TD plunge at 8:34, the failed PAT left Burton trailing 7-6.
Myron Pinkston added a 2-yard scoring run with 2:20 remaining in the first quarter. Jaycob Coleman blocked Allen’s subsequent PAT kick. That hardly seemed to matter after Malcom Pinkston added a 30-yard scoring run at 8:57 in the third quarter. Allen hit his kick for the 20-6 lead.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to do,” said Vikings coach Phil Robbins. “Get the lead and sit on it.”
Stewart’s 1-yard TD crash with 2:15 left in the half capped a 10-play, 35-yard drive he kept alive with clutch throws to Caleb Caudill and Coleman — right after he’d gotten sacked twice consecutively.
Fate took an ugly turn for the Vikings (2-2, 0-1) in the early minutes of the third quarter.
Mitchell hit Lawson for a 6-yard completion but the Viking wideout fumbled the ball. Talley — whose 60-yard kickoff return helped set up Burton’s score before the half — scooped it up and returned it 29 yards to score. Stewart hit Jacob Caudill for the 2-point conversion pass to tie it 20-20.
Lightning struck again on Powell Valley’s next possession when Coleman — who’d collect an interception in the fourth quarter — grabbed Malcom Pinkston’s fumble and returned it 11 yards to the Viking 25.
Five snaps later, Stewart turned the tide for good.
“Two turnovers. That’s it. That’s the ballgame,” Robbins said.
Mitchell had some nice throws in the second half, but the Raider defense pretty much shut down the ground game.
“We had to make (a defensive) adjustment or two at halftime,” Burton coach Jimbo Adams said. “They were kind of spreading our gaps out and our kids didn’t understand what we wanted them to do.
“Give Powell Valley credit. They had a few wrinkles and it took us a while to adjust.”