After their travel across the state to play the Barton Bears, the Paris Eagles took the field as heavy underdogs in last Friday’s first round of playoff action.
Barton features one of the premier rushing attacks in the classification and puts points up in bunches. Paris comes off of a flat week against Lamar needing to make drastic improvements on both sides of the ball. On paper, it looked to be a one-sided affair. But it didn’t turn out that way. Paris proved to be a tough out for the Bears, falling one score short, 40-33.
It didn’t look any better when Barton broke loose on a 90-yard run in the opening quarter, then promptly went for the two-point conversion and converted. The ability convert for two would become a major story line as the game progressed.
Paris’ DaKovan Wise answered the score in the second with a 22-yard run, and Paris would convert to tie the game at 8. Still in the second, Barton would add another score and conversion, making the score at half a somewhat surprising 16-8 Barton lead in a low scoring affair.
Barton scored first in the third, again converting and taking a 24-8 lead. Wise broke loose again, this time for 41 yards but the conversion failed, leaving the Eagles trailing 24-14.
After Barton went up 32-14 in the fourth, it looked all but over for the Eagles. Then, the rally began, and this time it was quarterback Kris Graham who scored but again the conversion failed, and the Eagles trailed 32-20. Barton answered, converted the two points, and had Paris doubled up at 40-20 in the fourth.
Paris drove the field and Kris Gram scampered in on a short run, but the PAT was missed, and the score was 40-26 and time was a commodity. The Eagles’ defense held, and Paris got the ball, needing two scores to win.
Paris drove the field again and Graham scampered in for his third score of the game. With the PAT, Paris trailed by one score, 40-33. Time would expire before Paris could complete the comeback.
Though the Eagles scored five touchdowns to answer all five from Barton, it was the perfection of Barton on the two-point conversions that made the difference.
Barton narrowly out gained Paris on the ground 356-349, a feat that seemed improbable heading into the contest. Paris was led on defense by Wise and Matthew Ezell with six tackles each. George Poole added another five.
Barton must now travel to Charleston for the second round contest.
For the Eagles, the season ends with a 4-8 record, including a 3-4 mark in conference play. They will lose a talented group of seniors. However, Paris has more young talent, especially in the trenches, coming up through the ranks.