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Thunderbirds can’t take advantage of Bobcats’ mistakes

Six forced turnovers and a second-half shutout.

If you simply went by that sentence, you would think that the North Callaway defense came through with a big-time performance in Wednesday night’s Class 3 sectional against the No. 6 Bowling Green Bobcats.

And if the game were just one half, you’d be correct. But this contest, a 27-7 Bowling Green victory, was won in the first half.

The Thunderbirds and Bobcats, former Eastern Missouri Conference rivals, started off the game on two paths that could not have been headed in more opposite directions. And for all intents and purposes, Bowling Green’s path was piloted by big plays from senior running back Jeff Pease.

It started on a North Callaway punt that the Bobcats’ Matt Brown returned all the way down inside the Thunderbirds’ 5-yard line. It took just one play for Bowling Green (9-2) to get on the board, a 3-yard touchdown run by Pease.

Pease then closed out the quarter in a large way, too. With no time left on the clock, he took a handoff up the middle for a 52-yard touchdown to give the Bobcats a 14-0 lead.

If Bowling Green made the most of its offense in spite of turnovers, North Callaway did not. Thunderbirds senior quarterback Tylar Walker barely had time to take a snap, let alone find his receivers, as he had a consistent Bobcats pass rush in his face all night.

Walker was sacked seven times — three coming in the first half — and was only able to muster 88 yards of total offense in the first 24 minutes.

Meanwhile, North Callaway added a dreadful case of the dropsies to its already growing list of offensive concerns against Bowling Green. Many times when it looked like the Thunderbirds might break through, a dropped pass or an overthrown ball halted the momentum.

Walker completed 11-of-35 passes for 101 yards and an interception.

In fact that interception Walker threw, on what looked like the breakthrough scoring drive that North Callaway was going to need, was returned 95 yards for a touchdown by senior defensive back Zach Pease.

Bowling Green, the Class 3 runner-up in 2009, ended the game with no passing yards but 238 yards rushing. Most of that total came from Jeff Pease, who outgained North Callaway by himself. Pease finished the game with 199 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries.

The Bobcats move on to face Wright City (9-2) in a sectional game next Monday night. Wright City advanced with a 44-22 regional win over Southern Boone (7-4) on Wednesday night.

North Callaway, making its first appearance in the state playoffs since 2004, finished with 169 yards of total offense. The Thunderbirds’ lone score came on a pass from Walker to senior wingback Taylor West with a little more than 2 minutes to play in the game.

West finished with 31 yards rushing and 30 receiving.

“I’m really proud of this team,” North Callaway head coach Mike Emmons said. “We left it all out on the field and we never gave up.”

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