BLUEFIELD, W. Va. -- For the second time this season, a UPIKE opponent left the Bears offense too much time to mount a game-winning drive, as Dillon Wheatley's last-second touchdown gave Pikeville the win over Bluefield on Saturday, 41-35.
However, the win carried more significance than just any homecoming spoiler, it also secured UPIKE (6-4, 4-1 MSC App.) a winning record overall and in Mid-South division play for the second time in three seasons.
It appeared all game that the team with the ball last would win, and thanks to some smart clock management by the UPIKE offense and coach Al Holland Jr., that team was the Bears who scored on Wheatley's 12-yard touchdown with nine seconds left in the game
As the score and final minute dramatics would suggest, Saturday's contest was an absolute thriller with the two teams trading scores left and right.
After a few lackluster drives, UPIKE finally got on the scoreboard but without the offense on the field as Christopher Dublin blocked a Ram punt and Josh Green returned it 50-plus yards for a touchdown.
Willie McCloud scored his 17th career rushing touchdown on the second play of the second quarter to give the Bears a 14-0 lead. McCloud's 17 touchdowns move him to 4th overall in the all-time record list.
Bluefield then answered with a quick score, then a non-offensive touchdown of its own when Jonathan Green picked off Bowen Smith and took it to the house to tie the game at 14.
That pass was Smith's lone mistake of the game, as he completed 14 of his 17 passes for 142 yards as well as taking in two short rushing touchdowns.
Both offenses fired on all cylinders in the contest, but their methods of operation could not have differed more.
Bluefield struck quick with big plays through the air, as Ram quarterback Cason Whitt threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, UPIKE liked to slow the pace of the game down with methodical runs and the Bears amassed 251 yards on the ground, along with all five of their offensive touchdowns. Because of that pace, Pikeville dominated time of possession, holding the ball for over 11 more minutes than the Rams.
After the game was tied at 14, UPIKE and BC traded scores pretty much for the duration of the game.
Smith's first rushing touchdown and Whitt's second touchdown advanced the score to 21 all at halftime.
Bluefield went three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, and UPIKE responded with a long 15-play, over eight-minute long drive punctuated by a Xondre Willis touchdown to give the Bears a 28-21 lead.
Willis was once again a force out of the backfield with his fourth 100-yard game this season, today for 118 yards on 17 touches.
After Bluefield answered, Smith's second rushing touchdown of the day gave UPIKE the lead again halfway through the fourth quarter, which was once again equaled by BC, this time on a two-yard run.
That set the scene for the final touchdown dramatics which sealed the game for Pikeville.
UPIKE has one game left of the regular season when it hosts senior night against Cumberlands (Ky.) at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Hambley Athletic Complex.