The Arkansas City Bulldogs were their own worst enemy Friday night in AV-CTL D-II football action against Valley Center at Bulldog Stadium.
The Bulldogs missed three golden opportunities in the red zone in a bitterly disappointing 27-21 loss.
Mistakes were aplenty — both physical and mental.
The Bulldogs (2-5, 1-4 AV-CTL D-II) gave away 67 yards in penalties, committed two turnovers and were just 1 of 5 on fourth-down conversions — and those were only the ones that counted.
The fourth quarter could safely be considered a nightmare for any head coach.
That period, that might define Ark City’s entire season, began innocently enough, with the Bulldogs facing second-and-3 at the Valley Center 12-yard line.
Ark City quarterback Gabe Welch was sacked for a five-yard loss. That’s when things turned interesting.
Welch dropped back and threw a pass to Cadon Clark over the middle. Clark appeared to have caught the ball at the 1-yard line and was trying to force his way into the end zone before losing the ball across the goal line. One official signaled touchdown, but another ruled the pass incomplete.
Welch threw incomplete on fourth down, but Valley Center defensive back Hunter Sharp was called for pass interference. Usually a 15-yard penalty, because the Bulldogs were inside the red zone it became half-the-distance to the goal, putting the ball at the 8.
Given another chance, Welch took the handoff, turned and ran into tailback Wyatt Bahm, who was tackled in the backfield to turn the ball over on downs.
The Bulldogs got the ball back with 8:37 remaining when Valley Center punter Kade Wilson shanked his punt for seven yards — the only punt of the game.
Ark City marched on an eight-play drive to the 3-yard line. A false-start penalty on fourth down moved the ball back to the 8, but another pass interference flag on the Hornets — instead of a 15-yard penalty was just four measly yards — was followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — normally another 15 yards, but this time good for just two — gave Ark City one final shot, but Welch’s pass to Lucas Barnes was just off his fingertips and Valley Center breathed another sigh of relief.
Ark City was gifted another opportunity when Valley Center quarterback Kaleb Harden fumbled the snap and Ark City linebacker Rhett Lathers fell on it at the VC 19-yard line. However, that drive stalled when Welch was sacked on third-and-goal, and Clark’s 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Ark City spent much of the second half looking for that elusive game-tying or go-ahead touchdown, but never found it.
For full coverage of ACHS sports, see Tuesday’s CourierTraveler.