SARCOXIE, Mo. — It was a night Commerce head coach Steve Moss had never seen.
“At one point in the game, we had seven starters on the sideline with three of them cramping, three of them with bumps and bruises and one with a full blown injury,” Moss said following a 26-12 loss to Sarcoxie, Missouri, here Friday night.
“I actually thought going into the game that we were in pretty good physical condition,” Moss said. “We ran the kids in preseason a lot more than we did in the past just to get them in physical shape.”
The win enabled Sarcoxie (2-0) to avenge a 37-7 loss to CHS last season.
While the Tigers were opening their season, the hosts were playing their second game of the season. SHS routed Jasper, Missouri, 45-7 last week.
The Bears grabbed the lead at the 8:45 mark of the first quarter on a 13-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Chris Comerford. Raul Reyes kicked the extra point to create a 7-0 Sarcoxie lead.
Commerce put together a sustained drive two minutes into the second quarter before Chris Ibarra scored on a 1-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt was stuffed as Sarcoxie held a 7-6 lead.
Less than three minutes later the Bears widened their lead as Comerford scored on a 1-yard plunge over center. The point-after by Reyes gave the Bears a 14-6 margin with 7:23 until halftime.
Junior quarterback Hayden Moss rallied the Tigers with a 12-yard TD pass to wide out Trevor Browning with 2:34 before intermission. The extra point kick sailed wide left as Commerce trailed 14-12 going into the locker room.
Neither team could score through the first 10 minutes of the third quarter before Sarcoxie crossed the goal line at the 1:19 mark.
Comerford broke loose for a 17-yard touchdown run, but the Bears failed on the extra point kick for a 20-12 cushion.
“We had the ball inside the Sarcoxie 5-yard line with under five minutes left in the game,” Moss said. “We were looking to tie it up right there. But out starting center and our second center were both on the sideline, so we had to go with a kid that hadn’t snapped since the seventh grade which created a lot of issues and resulted in a bobbled snap to end the threat.
“When you graduate four offensive linemen and you’re starting four new kids, we thought we were sitting pretty good,” Moss said. “But, by this time in the game, three of those linemen are out with leg cramps which really limited our chances.”
Junior running back Ryan Dunbar led the Tigers running game with 84 yards on seven carries. Ibarra contributed 25 yards on six carries as Commerce amassed 102 yards on 20 carries.
Hayden Moss completed 16 of 24 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
“Our quarterback threw the ball pretty well by averaging 13.6 yards per throw,” Moss said. “But, he was throwing to four experienced receivers which helped a lot.
“We had the ball inside the 10 three times and didn’t get any points because we weren’t able to finish,” Moss said. “You can’t do that and expect to win the game.”
Ibarra paced the Tigers receiving corps with seven receptions for 77 yards while senior wide out Lupe Prado Jr. made four catches for 33 yards. Browning finished with three receptions for 97 yards while Hunter Burkybile added two catches for 10 yards.
Defensively, Dunbar paced the Tigers with five unassisted tackles and 10 assists at the linebacker spot.
Ibarra made four solos and 10 assists as an outside linebacker while Burkybile contributed two unassisted tackles and nine assists at defensive end.
“One thing about a game like this was that everybody got to play a lot of minutes,” Moss said. “We had to keep rotating people so much.”
Comerford led the Bears with 259 yards on 26 carries and four TDs. He also intercepted a pass on defense to quell a Commerce scoring drive.
The Tigers open the home portion of the schedule at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, by hosting Sallisaw Central (1-0).