FORT SCOTT, Kan. -- Fort Scott High School's football team is a team of two halves. In the first half of both their games this season, they have shown a strong effort. Unfortunately, they have taken steps back in the second half of both games.
After thwarting Independence three times in the "red zone" in the first half Friday night and going into the locker room with a 7-6 lead, the Tigers were unable to stop the Bulldog running game in the second half nor could they get much offense going against them.
In the end, Fort Scott fell 29-7 in a Southeast Kansas League game at Frary Field and dropped to 0-1 in the SEK and 0-2 overall. Independence improved to 2-0 in the league and overall.
In the second half, Independence pounded the ball for 304 rushing yards. Junior running back Matt Bromley rushed for 157 yards alone in the second half and had 323 yards and three touchdowns on the night on 40 carries.
The Bulldogs gained 570 yards of total offense on 70 plays. Fort Scott had 218 total yards on 45 plays and rushed for only 10 yards in the second half.
"It came down to blocking and tackling," Fort Scott head coach Don Epps said. "And they beat us tonight in both those areas."
Indy scored first, capitalizing on a Fort Scott fumble deep in its own territory. It took only four plays to get on the board as Bromley found a big hole up the middle from 13 yards out with 3:27 on the clock. The 'Dogs went for two points on the conversion and -- despite quarterback Peyton Botts' scrambling -- failed to connect on a pass.
The Tigers answered quickly. A keeper by quarterback Trevor Swim gained 21 yards to Independence's 37. After a penalty and a negative-yardage play, Swim hit Gary Floyd on the bubble screen pass for 21 yards to the Indy 25.
The Tigers went for it on fourth-and-8 from the 23 and Floyd made a leaping reception over Dominique DeBouse for the touchdown. Griffin Knopp's extra-point kick saw the Tigers go in front, 7-6, just six seconds into the second quarter.
"We were getting a push up front, which we didn't get last week," Epps said. "We were able to throw and pass the ball, have more balance in the first half. I felt we were moving the ball well."
Indy got into the red zone quickly on the next drive as Bromley gained 15, then 25 yards on consecutive plays to get Indy to the Fort Scott 27. But two plays after that, Demonta Clark fumbled and Fort Scott linebacker Jimmy Ford recovered at the Bulldog 25.
The Tigers got to the Independence 27 on their ensuing possession. But a fourth-down pass fell incomplete. The Bulldogs turned right around and marched down to the Fort Scott 26 but were also stopped on a fourth-down incompletion.
Independence had another red-zone opportunity just before halftime. Unlike their previous drives, Botts was the key player. He gained 16 yards to the Indy 48 on a scramble, then hit Clark for 23 yards to the 29 on the next play. Botts connected with Brandon Stein for 11 yards and Bromley found eight yards to set up second-and-2 at the 10 with under a minute to go.
Botts scrambled right and threw into the end zone but Jaret Thorpe stepped in front of the play for an interception with 35 seconds left in the half.
Independence received the second-half opening kickoff and needed only six plays and less than two minutes to score on an 80-yard drive as Bromley plunged in for his second touchdown from three yards out. That play put him right at 200 yards rushing and Bott's run for two points put the Bulldogs ahead 14-7.
Indy also scored on its second possession of the half as Bromley capped an 11-play, 94-yard drive with a run from two yards out. Another two-point conversion failed, laving the score at 20-7 with 2:35 to go in the third.
The Bulldogs continued to march upfield as they pleased, getting to the 8-yard line before fumbling the ball away t to the Tigers. But two plays after that, Damone Hatch sacked Swim in the end zone for a safety with 5:29 left in the game to make it 22-7.
The Bulldogs also scored after the free kick as Clark took a pitch 22 yards for the final score of the contest with 2:47 to go. Stein kicked the extra point.
"They were getting a lot of yards after contact," Epps said. "I felt coach (Bo) Graham had them in the right position to make the tackle but the we just couldn't make the tackle."
"I was really disappointed in how the second half developed. I'll take the blame more than anyone on that."
One play before Clark's touchdown, linebacker Blake Cowen came from behind to make a tackle on Clark despite the fact that he had lost his helmet during the play.
"Blake never gave up," Epps said. "He made a play when a lot of kids would have given up. We have a lot of kids like that. We just have to keep moving forward."
Botts finished with 92 yards rushing and Clark added 56 for the Bulldogs. Denzell Davis led Fort Scott rushers with 51 yards on eight carries, most of those coming on the Tigers' first possession of the second quarter.
Swim completed 10 of 16 passes for 110 yards. Floyd caught three for 49 yards and tight end Tony Jackson caught three for 26 yards.
The Tigers, who have lost their last five home games, go on the road next Friday to take on rival Pittsburg, which lost to Columbus, 12-10, Friday night. It was the first victory for Columbus (2-0) in the "Coal Bucket" series since 1973. Pittsburg fell to 1-1.
"You have to keep chugging," Epps said. "We're going to come back. The kids are disappointed but we played hard. You just have to execute better. It's a broken record."