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Gentry loses playoff game at Lamar by one

by Randy Moll | November 16, 2021 at 7:54 a.m.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry senior Zach Gunneman runs the ball after taking a handoff from junior quarterback Chris Bell during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.

LAMAR -- Lamar coach Josh Jones flinched a little toward the end of Friday's first-round 4A playoff game with Gentry. He was expecting the Pioneers to go for the win instead of the tie.

"Absolutely," Jones said. "We couldn't stop them. They're huge; they're monsters. We could not put anybody else in the box to stop No. 34 [William Pyburn]."

Down 21-14 with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Gentry drove 65 yards for a potential game-tying touchdown when Pyburn plowed in from the 2.

The big back had runs on the final series of 12, 6, 7, 6, 6, 8, and 2 yards.

But Gentry kicker Diego Saldada hooked his extra-point attempt wide left with 1:20 left. The Warriors recovered the ensuing kickoff and ran out the clock to earn a 21-20 win and a second-round playoff date with Prairie Grove.

"We get to play another week, and that's a good thing," Jones said. "I was worried they were going to go for two. [Pyburn] is a bowling ball, and I don't know if you know it, but my linebacker [Cory Teal] is 5-foot-2 and 135 pounds and he's giving me all he's got."

Gentry coach Justin Bigham was proud of his team's effort.

"It's kind of a weird thing because unless you win the state championship it always ends like this -- with a loss," Bigham said. "I was proud of the way the kids played. Lamar's a good football team; they're coached really well."

Bigham, in his second season as the team's head coach, said he thought about going for the win. Lamar didn't seem to have an answer for Pyburn on the final drive.

"I thought we were getting a little tired at the end there," Bigham said. "If I had it to do over again, I would have. But I believe in our kicker; he's done a great job for us all year. He's a good kid and he's a heckuva an asset."

Lamar missed a golden opportunity to grab the early lead after forcing a Gentry turnover at the Pioneers' 17.

After the Warriors missed a field goal, however, Gentry drove 80 yards for the first points of the night when quarterback Chris Bell hit Braedon Warren with a 43-yard touchdown pass to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

Lamar responded two series later when, after forcing a short punt, driving 27 yards for its first points. Junior Damien Hendrix did the honors with a hard 10-yard run up the middle.

Pyburn sparked the Pioneers' next offensive series with a 28-yard run burst on first down. Three plays later, Bell hit Jonathan Corter with a 23-yard scoring strike to put the Pioneers ahead, 14-7.

Starting from its 40 on its next series, Lamar then drove 60 yards in just seven plays, with Hendrix bursting in from the 14 with 2:26 to play in the half.

Lamar dominated the time of possession in the third quarter but couldn't crack the scoreboard. Jimm Balmer made all three of his PAT attempts but missed two field goals and had another blocked in Friday's win.

Bryson Walker blocked Balmer's 42-yard attempt in the third quarter, giving Gentry great field position at its 43.

But neither team could muster any offense until Lamar quarterback Landon Harrison flipped a short pass to speedy Tony Balmer who turned the corner and went 83 yards for the touchdown with 5:13 remaining.

Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Gentry seniors Dawson Rayburn and Bryson Walker put an end to a Lamar running play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry seniors Dawson Rayburn and Bryson Walker put an end to a Lamar running play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Gentry senior Zach Gunneman runs the ball  during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry senior Zach Gunneman runs the ball during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Gentry's offensive line takes position for a play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry's offensive line takes position for a play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Gentry senior Zach Gunneman takes a handoff from junior quarterback Chris Bell during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry senior Zach Gunneman takes a handoff from junior quarterback Chris Bell during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Gentry senior Will Pyburn breaks through the line on a running play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Gentry senior Will Pyburn breaks through the line on a running play during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL
Behind the blocking of Will Pyburn, Gentry  junior Ty Hays runs the ball during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
Submitted/NIKKI SLONE RAYBURN-STILL Behind the blocking of Will Pyburn, Gentry junior Ty Hays runs the ball during Friday's playoff game at Lamar High School.
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