PIKEVILLE, Ky. - It was a night to remember for UPIKE football’s 21 seniors as the Bears defeated Bethel 44-34 to close out the 2019 home schedule.
UPIKE pulled off the rare trifecta of scoring with all three units of the game – offense, defense, and special teams. With the win, UPIKE secures at least a .500 record in MSC play for the seventh consecutive season.
The Bears were electric with the ball in their hand from the opening kickoff. Kevin Felder returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to the five-yard line. Derius Gibson then took it into the endzone for the final five yards.
Two possessions later, the offense struck for another big play as Bowen Smith found Alexander Shelton down the middle of the field for a 72-yard touchdown, the longest offensive play of the season.
Smith had a great game on his senior night, completing 11 passes for 162 yards and that touchdown.
Pikeville extended its lead even further on its next possession with a bit of trickery. Shelton lined up as the “Wildbear” quarterback and threw a jump pass just as he hit the line to Vitaldo David for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
With the score at 20-0, it appeared that UPIKE was on the verge of putting the game away early.
But, Bethel then ran the corresponding kickoff for a touchdown and then hit Pikeville for a strip sack and scored to get the score at 20-14 in just 24 seconds to end the first quarter.
The Wildcats went for the jugular after that score with an onside kick attempt but UPIKE recovered and was able to march down the short field for Gibson’s second score of the night.
On their second possession of the third quarter, Bethel used a wide receiver reverse to score and get back within one score.
But that score only lasted for 14 seconds as Christopher Dublin took a short kickoff 70 yards to the house to put Pikeville back ahead by 13.
Bethel was persistent and wouldn’t go away quietly, scoring again just a minute and a half later. After a three-and-out by UPIKE, Bethel appeared to had stolen momentum until Taeron Brown plucked a pass out of the end zone and took it back 100 yards for a touchdown.
The 100-yard return, the longest distance possible, ties the program record shared with graduate assistant Romon Morris, for the longest interception return.
Brown nearly added a second pick-six later in the game, but had the score called back on a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating before the play was over.
The senior put on a show in his final game at home, totaling nine tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and the two interceptions with 151 yards of returns.
After a 41-yard William Chandler field goal to push the lead to three scores at 44-28, Bethel got into the end zone one more time, but NyShun Bell intercepted the two-point conversion attempt to keep the game at the final score of 44-34.
UPIKE will close out the regular season next Saturday with a road contest at Thomas More. Kickoff in Crestview Hills, Ky. is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.